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From Yeh Yeh to Go Go
By Quijano de Manila
“I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love!”
July 16, 1966—THE SECOND British Invasion was as big a flop as the first.
The Mersey Sound such a tonic in cans, proved a messy sound when fresh, and locally provoked a no-mercy sound. Yeh, yeh, cried the four evangelists of beat. Go, go, snarled the locals—and they meant away, to hell, climb a tree, ’lis jan.
Well, at least, in this year of grace 1966, it wasn’t the Yankees we were telling to go home on the fourth of July. The Grand and Glorious got stolen from the Stars & Stripes by the Union Jack, but the show it stole but was not grand but inglorious.
Four boys had us on toast, had us on string; we were had. Our whole society. From the palace down. The constabulary and the police. The army, the navy and the marines. City Hall and the Fourth Estate. Not to mention Big Business.
Now we’re all crying aghast that the Emperor had no clothes on. We’re fooling ourselves again. The Emperor was dressed, it’s we who were naked. We got the shock treatment—and on that score the Beatles were no flop. They fulfilled in Manila what’s their mission in the world: the exposing of status and pretense. On which side of the footlights were the shams? Scriptures have the word for it: “For he has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise.”
To a world so anxious to be “in,” the Beatles have demonstrated how to flee so far “out” you become the most “in.” They have reversed all the maxims. Does mommy say you have to look clean-cut to get on in the world? So the Beatles wore their shags uncut and uncombed. Do the schoolma’ams teach that cleanliness is next to godliness? So the Beatles frankly stink. Are good manners and right conduct supposed to unlock the narrower doors of society. So the Beatles play the boor and won’t go see a duchess if they don’t feel like it. Is it considered elegant to understate? So the Beatles go the whole hog, whether in music or attire.
By ignoring all the prescriptions to achieve status, they have achieved status. They have proved you don’t have to be neat, clean, orderly, cultured, refined, holy or conventional to make a million, become an idol and get decorated by the Queen. Theirs is the triumph of the Outsider and their function in our time is to explode the bromides of the herd.
But Philippine society is an anxious status-seeker, especially in the world of Western mass culture. Whatever is “in” there, we would be with it. We are a conventional people, and even when we try to be unconventional it’s for a very conventional reason: because “everybody’s doing it.” We would show ourselves as much “in” as any Westerner and our grasping at the latest fashions, the newest idioms, the hottest dances betrays our craving for cultural status in western society. Now the kind of people we are is precisely the sort of audience the Beatles are tooled to outrage. So, they came, they saw, they raped. The encounter in Manila was between the authentically unconventional and those merely pretending to be. And the pretenders got exposed.
Because the Beatles are supposed to be very “in,” we had to make all that fuss over them to prove that we, too, are “in”—but do we ever ponder why the Beatles are so “in” with Westerners? We can’t blame it all on advertising and the mass media. Similar efforts of those media to build up such wholesome figures as Pat Boone and Rosemary Clooney got nowhere with a dull thud. Publicity can not sell everything. It takes more than a good pro to get you room at the top. What is it in the Beatles that speaks to the here-and-now? Because we don’t know we are outraged and say the Emperor was naked. But the Emperor’s new clothes are there only for those who have eyes for the really new and are not merely aping the enthusiasm of others.
It is a hoary chestnut that we Filipinos ape the appearance but miss the essence of our Western borrowings. Our youngsters, for instance, think that a mop of hair and a guitar suffice to turn them into Beatles—and we deplore the imitation. Yet the qualities that make the Beatles so inescapable a fact of our times are the very qualities that we need to get us moving—like the delight in doing what everybody else is not doing, or the irreverence for mores & manners, or the urge to be singular, spontaneous, original, new, or the courage to be unconventional, unpleasant, outside, not with it. These are the qualities that make the Beatles so attractive to a Westerner, that make them such authentic exemplars of modern nonconformism, of the disillusion with the old rules by which men lived. But we and our mop-haired would-be Beatles have no idea of that spirit of rebellion, of that taste for spontaneity.
Philippine values are held values; the scene at the airport was of a herd driving out the odd, the rum, the singular, the outrageous, the maverick, the new. It was a gesture of the Conformist Community, the Conventional Society.
Culture has been invoked to justify the tar-and-feathers. Those who look down their noses at the Beatles as mere mass cult and noise may do well to ponder if what’s deemed vulgarity by delicate souls may not really be the same kind of vitality yawping from art forms once considered low and vulgar but now revered as high culture—like the English ballad, Italian opera, and Negro jazz.
Anyway, the Beatles’ place in culture, whether pop or snob, is secure. Their two films are already classics; and it’s a very safe bet that some of their “noises”—beat madrigals like “If I Fell” and “Yesterday” and “The Night Before”—will outlive, will outlast any number of symphonies or sonatas or other long-hair stuff being written today that might just as well have been written in some other era. But the Beatles speak the language of now; they’re instant; they affirm. Their yeh yeh is in the spirit of the biblical yeah. At a time when the gravediggers seemed to be taking over the world they burst forth accentuating the affirmative. The people, yes. John Lennon said it in a memorable passage: “The Bomb? Nuclear disarmament? Well, like everybody else I don’t want to end up a festering heap, but I don’t stay up nights worrying. I’m preoccupied with Life, not Death.”
How could they not flop in a land which only wants not to be disturbed, not to change, not to be shocked? Having made a career of outrageousness, they have taken for granted that any audience that asks for them is asking to be outraged. If they made a mistake in Manila, the mistake is flattering to us: they assumed we were in the same league. But they were Batman in Thebes.
Having said that, one feels free to feel outraged at whoever organized their show in Manila, the staging of which belonged to the primitive days of vaudeville. Outrageousness is not the same as stupidity. And stupid is too mild a word for backward incompetence. Even in Thebes.
Ticket to Ride
Negotiations to bring the Beatles over took a year, were completed about two months ago, with the local promoters—Cavalcade Inc.—getting the Beatles as part of a package deal that included five other shows, among them the Dave Clark Five, Shirley Bassey and Johnny Mathis. You have to buy those other shows to get the Beatles because they’re all handled by the same booking company. The price of the Beatles for their one-day appearance in Manila has been the subject of much speculation, but Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade says that the price was “not a hundred thousand dollars, nor half of that, not even a quarter of that.”
Cavalcade originally intended to have the Beatles at the Araneta Coliseum, but the Aranetas very sensibly balked at Cavalcade’s plan to charge a top price of fifty pesos for the show. At the “people’s coliseum” said the Aranetas, no seat was to cost more than ten pesos. Cavalcade, fearing to lose money, wouldn’t bring down its alpine scale of prices and booked the Beatles into the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. That was the big basic bubu. As one showman remarks, no show has ever succeeded at the football stadium because promoters don’t have control of the gates. Besides, a football stadium just is no place for a show. So, everybody lost out. The Beatles flopped; the cheated audience fumed; and Cavalcade is just as unhappy as everybody else because it lost money on the show.
It didn’t expect to, of course. There were lots of tie-ups. Two soft-drinks companies “sponsored” the show—that is, financed the ads in exchange for the soft-drinks concession at the stadium during the show. The Elizaldes offered their yacht as a floating hotel for the Beatles in exchange for an exclusive TV interview. The Elizaldes, too, later had reason to regret the deal.
With so many wild rumors flying about the week before the show (the Beatles were already in town, had been landed by submarine) the promoters called a press conference that has become a joke among newsmen. Whatever they asked at the press conference the reply they got was “That’s confidential.” Had the Beatles really already arrived? “That’s confidential.” When were they really arriving? “That’s confidential.” Joe Quirino says that if anyone had asked if the Beatles really existed the reply would surely have been: “That’s confidential!”
The advance hoopla was titillating. A local company insured the Beatles for a million pesos. Word went around that the Beatles would travel around Manila in a helicopter. The PC, the CAA, Customs and the police forces of Manila and the suburbs would be on “red alert” from the moment the Beatles landed. Security measures would be the tightest since the Eisenhower visit. Invited to attend the show as “guests of honor” were 1,500 of the Philcag volunteers for Vietnam. Pro-Beatle and anti-Beatle groups were said to be readying demonstrations. A teen-age girl threatened to jump off a building if she didn’t get to meet the Beatles. Customs Commissioner Jacinto Gavino sternly ordered out of his office a middle-aged man who had tried to give him tickets to the Beatle show. “Offering complimentary tickets to government officials amounts to bribery,” said the commissioner.
In this case he had a point, considering the prices of the tickets. Tickets to ride indeed, and a lot of people would later feel they had been taken for a ride. The range was: P50 for the patron, P30 for ringside, P20 for field, P15 for grandstand, P5 for the distant heights, and P2 for the outermost steppes, where the poor plebes, cooped behind chicken wire, strained in vain to see and hear. But then even people in the front rows found they couldn’t hear a thing. This was literally, as the local cry goes, Harang!
The Beatles planed in at half-past four Sunday afternoon, July 3, to the squealing of a crowd variously estimated as from 5,000 to 10,000. The most vociferous of the welcomers were the American girls and the mestizas, most of whom were mini-skirted, bobbysox’d and booted for the occasion. Also decorating the occasion were PC troops, police troops, motorcycle cops in red cowboy hats, armored cars, fire trucks, riot squad jeeps and police prowl cars. Their first glimpse of this Philippine scenery prompted one of the Beatles to ask: “Is there a war in the Philippines?” Why is everybody armed?”
Despite George Harrison’s red jacket and Ringo Starr’s striped blazer, the Beatles, when they emerged from the plane, struck many as being dressed in a more muted style than expected. “Faded” is reporter Joe Quirino’s impression of the color of their clothes. Actually, the Beatles were mostly in beige, their shirts open at the neck. The one flamboyance that caught every eye was George Harrison’s stripped shoes. But the Beatle locks were as shaggy as anyone could have wished and newshen quickly noted the quartet’s exuberant aroma.
A white limousine instead of a helicopter was waiting on the runway to whisk the Beatles away as soon as they had got off the plane, but this plan was frustrated by Customs Collector Salvador Mascardo, who drove up to runway and told the Beatles their hand luggage, too, would have to go through customs. This irked the troupe; they clung to their bags and swore. “You’ll go back to the plane if you don’t surrender those things,” threatened Mascardo. The Beatles finally yielded, still grumbling. When they got the bags later, they took a peek inside and sarcastically announced: “Nothing missing.” Then into the white limousine they dashed and got the hell out of there as fast as they could, while their waiting fans wailed in despair.
First stop was at the Philippine Navy headquarters, where the TV-press conference was to be held in the War Room. Two fire engines were on the ready on the Vito Cruz corner of the boulevard. No cars, except the one bearing the Beatles, could enter the Navy compound. Everyone had to get off 20 meters away and walk to the gate. Special passes had been issued to ensure that only TV and press folk would be at the conference, but newsmen griped that of the some 40 people in the War Room only about ten were newsmen: “The others must have been relatives of the brass.”
The War Room is small and narrow, with about seven rows of five seats each in the center, facing a long table on a dais at one end of the room. This is where the top brass sit during briefings. On the wall behind the table are two signs: top secret – confidential.
When the Beatles came in and sat down at the table all the photographers jumped up and went wild. During the commotion John Lennon yelped “Woof!Woof!” and Ringo pranced about shouting “Shall we dance?” Order was restored after ten minutes and the newsmen took over. “Joe, start it,” said somebody to reporter Quirino, who obliged with an inevitable query. “How many times,” he asked the hairy four in general, “do you have you hair cut?” Cooed John Lennon: “Many times!” And when was the last time? “1993!” giggled Lennon. (“That Lennon,” says Quirino, “was the most smart-alecky of all.”)
Lennon the Leader and Paul McCartney did most of the talking. George Harrison was not as loud as his clothes but revealed a dry wit when heard from. “Give it to whoever deserves it,” said he of Vietnam. Ringo proved to be the most austere, despite those jewels on every finger—“not from my wife, from my girlfriends.”
Question and answer followed the current cult of the absurd. What attracted their wives to them? “Sex.” What did their wives do when they were away? “Have a holiday.” What was their favorite song? “God Save The Queen.” What was their second favorite song? “God Save The King.” What would they be doing ten years from now? “We don’t even know if we’ll be around tomorrow. That was ominous, as was their reply to the question: what was their latest tune? “Philippine Blues.” They can say that again. And when asked what they thought of the Rolling Stones, another top British combo coming soon to Manila, the Beatles allowed that the Stones were nice rollers, and added: “We’ll warn them!” The boys spoke more wisely than they knew.
When the half hour was up, Brian Epstein, the Beatle manager who measured out their time as though every minute were gold, cut short the cackle with a curt: “Gentlemen, that’s all.” And he rushed his wards away. Everybody agrees that Brian Epstein is proof enough that it wasn’t inspired pro work that made the Beatles. One young lady of Manila thoughtfully reports that Mr. Epstein “always looked pissed off.”
From the War Room the boys were taken to the Elizalde yacht Marima, which was waiting at the Manila Yacht Club. Two young mestizas in boots were observed screaming from the dock that, if not allowed on board, they would “broadcast” to the whole city where the Beatles were. Photographers on the dock begged for a picture of the Beatles looking out a cabin window. The Beatles were agreeable but were shooed away by Epstein. “No pictures!” roared Epstein. And out into Manila Bay fled the Marima.
On board, initially, were the Beatles and their four managers, Fred Elizalde and his sister Mrs. Menandro, Binibining Maynila of 1966 Josine Pardo de Tavera Loinaz, and a small group from Cavalcade. Two TV men from the Elizaldes’ Channel 11 were also supposed to go along but had been ordered off by Epstein, who said he didn’t care what the hell station they were from: there was to be no TV interview—though this was the deal for using the Elizalde yacht. At the breakwater Mrs. Menandro and the Cavalcade group got off. So, when the Marima proceeded for a cruise round Manila Bay, the only people on board, besides the crew, were the Beatle troupe, Fred Elizalde and Josine Loinaz. Fred Elizalde says he strictly hewed to the agreement that there was to be no company on board.
Josine Loinaz says that, away from the madding crowd, the Beatles turned out to be charming chaps—“very natural.” They lolled around on the front deck, in rubber sandals, and played tapes of Indian classical music. “I had a nice long chat with George, the nicest of them all.” Paul had a Scotch-and-Coke, the others had “Scotch-and-I-don’t-know-what.” They seemed to be enjoying themselves, were completely relaxed; only Epstein raged about, complaining about everything, until even his wards twitted him for being so cranky. Josine thinks he was so “pissed off” because he had to put up a P7,500 re-exportation bond for the trope’s equipment. He wouldn’t even allow the boys to autograph four photos for her.
Having seen to the dinner—a consommé, fried chicken, and filet mignon with mashed potatoes, carrots and sweet peas—Fred Elizalde and Josine Loinaz then got off the yacht so the troupe could dine alone. When they went back later that evening they passed a dinghy full of young people obviously coming from the yacht, which was back in the Manila Yacht Club basin. It turned out that a brother of Fred and some 18 of his friends had, without authorization, boarded the yacht. They stayed only a while, but it was the straw that broke Mr. Epstein’s cranky camel’s back. The Beatles themselves were undisturbed. Fred and Josine found them having soup on deck. But Epstein was insisting on moving the troupe to a hotel. While he raged the dinner grew cold. If the Beatles had thought of staying, despite Epstein, the prospect of a cold dinner was enough to make them change their minds. “But they were nice right to the very end,” says Josine Loinaz. George Harrison told her: “We want to come back to visit when this craze has died down and we’re not famous any more.”
Then he and his pals followed Epstein to the Manila Hotel.
Hard Day’s Night
Their second day in Manila was D-Day: D for Disaster. Somebody who observed them at the hotel offers an explanation for their listless behavior: the boys were starving. They had had no dinner the night before, had ordered room-service food and found it “uneatable.” During their stay in Manila they subsisted mostly on boiled eggs. Only Paul McCartney found the energy to go to sightseeing. He stole out in a car and drove around the city for a couple of hours. The others are said to have had chicken in their rooms.
The Beatles occupied a suite and about half a dozen adjoining rooms on the fourth floor. Teen-age intelligence located them as soon as they moved in, but no crowds gathered. Only a small curious group headed by a late mayor’s son showed up on the night of the transfer; and though no measures were taken to isolate the fourth floor it drew no storm troops from the pimply tribe the following day, the day of the show.
What happened that morning stole the show from the show.
Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade says that the Beatles were provided with a program of their Manila schedule as soon as they arrived and that the schedule included a call at the Palace. After the press conference and before they parted that night, Ramos again reminded Epstein that his boys were expected at Malacañang the following morning: “Eptein just rejected it.” Ramos says he didn’t notify the Palace because he still hoped to save the appointment. The Beatles had expressed a willingness to go; only Epstein was being ornery.
The next morning, Ramos, Col. Morales of the MPD and Col. Flores of the PC were at the Beatles suite trying to persuade the troupe to keep the Palace appointment. But the Beatles had now become as tepid as their manager about the courtesy call. One suspects that too much pressure made the boys contrary: they don’t like to be told what to do. Afterwards, they would say they knew nothing about the appointment. But they were right there in the room while it was being discussed, when Epstein said to Ramos, Morales and Flores: “If they want to see the Beatles, let them come here!” And when told that they included President Marcos, one of the Beatles shrugged: “Who he?” (Later, on arriving in London, they would quip of the Philippines that “we didn’t even know they had a president”!)
Meanwhile, in the Palace, from 200 to 400 youngsters, mostly friends of Imee and Bongbong Marcos and children of high government officials, had been waiting since mid-morning with the First Lady. The Palace table, set for lunch, had places for the Beatles. The appointment was for eleven. At noon, the First Lady gave up; the children could go on waiting if they wanted to but she had other things to do. The children would wait until long past lunchtime, then give up too. Imee and Bongbong Marcos tore up their tickets for the Beatles show. Imee remarked that the only Beatles song she liked was “Run for Your Life.”
That afternoon, in Malate, where the first British invaders emplaced their siege artillery, an audience of 40,000 assembled to watch the second British invaders let go with their guns. The barrage was a dud.
The matinee show of the Beatles at the football stadium was a sellout: it was also a sell. Most of the audience couldn’t see or hear a thing. In effect, the Beatles stood up their audience as they had stood up the Palace. Joe Quirino, who sat right in front of the stage, says that all he could hear was the clatter of the drums. So he watched the audience instead. He says that those in the front rows had a puzzled expression on their faces, as though wondering: “Are these the Beatles?” He has a word for the Beatles’ performance: “Lackadaisical.” The applause of the audience was “perfunctory.”
An air-conditioned dressing room had been built for the Beatles on the football field, right behind the stage, and they stayed there from early afternoon until after the evening show. The word for the stage will also have to be “perfunctory”—a small makeshift platform, a black backdrop, a scatter of glitter. A wire fence separated the stage from the front rows. Security was massed on both sides of the stage. From time to time, into the space between the wire fence and the front rows darted rabbity girls, mostly American or mestiza, to squeal and squirm and dart away again. The rest of the audience sat stolid, having stopped straining to see or hear. They had paid all that money just to sit in the hot sun. The Beatles sang one song after another, eleven songs in all. Then they just stopped and disappeared. There was no call for an encore. Nobody had swooned. Everybody griped about the sound system.
Because of the complaints, Cavalcade made “certain changes” in the sound system. “We tried to give them the best sound we could,” said Ramos. “The second show was much better.”
Take it from a Sharlie who was there: nothing but nothing could have been worse than the second show.
First point against it was the confusion at the gates, where the snafu was created by sheer stupidity and ineptitude. People had bought tickets in advance to avoid having to stand in line but found they had saved themselves no trouble: they had to fight their way in.
At the P20 and P50 gate, for instance, the waiting crowd grew bigger and bigger, and bitterer and bitterer, unable to enter because, it was explained later, whoever was in charge of the gate had gone to eat and taken the key with him. When the gate was finally opened, the crowd, now packed hard and seething, was told to form in lines. But how line up on that narrow street where military trucks were continually passing? Putting four or five ticket collectors at the gate would have emptied the street in no time; but no, there was only one ticket collector and he collected so slowly the crowd’s impatience mounted by the minute. After all it’s no joke to be crushed tight together in sweltering heat, especially if you’ve paid through the nose for comfort.
Moreover, those in charge of the gate couldn’t seem to make up their minds. The gate was closed, the gate was opened, the gate was closed again. The crowd now numbered in the thousands but was being admitted one person at a time through a chink in the gate. Exasperated, the crowd began to go wild, booing indignantly and yelling that they wanted to return their tickets. In the crush, where everyone was swimming in sweat, women screamed, children got trod on, clothes got ripped. It was a perfect setup for a riot and what’s miraculous is that it didn’t develop into a disaster, though one heard of one girl being mashed, of another losing her blouse.
People who finally got through that chink in the gate fumed aloud that whoever had organized the show should be arrested. Had one paid from P20 to P50 to have one’s life imperiled? Nobody was in a mood to enjoy any show. Only a very great performance would have been worth that ordeal—and the performance that night wasn’t.
Inside, one found the field swarming with mopheads and uniforms; the police were massed solid on the aisles. The stage was a faraway speck in a sea of seats, all of which were arranged to produce the maximum strain in viewing. Even the lighting had evidently been designed for discomfort; one of the performers had to ask that a floodlight be turned off because it was shining into the viewers’ eyes, making it impossible for them to see. Soaked in sweat, one carved a cool drink and was offered, at double the usual prices, a choice between two pop drinks, in hot dusty bottles. If there’s anything more nauseating than a urine-warm cola drink it’s a urine-warm orange drink. One’s solace was that a lot of people that night got so nauseated they swore off those two pop drinks forever.
The first part of the show mostly featured dishonesty, being rehash, number for number, song for song, gag for gag, performer for performer, of the first part of the recent Peter and Gordon show, which many in the audience must have seen. That people were made to pay up to P50 to see a rehash of an old show is a feat worthy of a Barnum; and it’s no excuse to say that the audience only came to see the Beatles. The audience paid for a whole show, and the Beatles surely deserved the best new program that could be assembled. And if you put on a show for which you charge extravagant prices, you should at least feel bound to serve something fresh, certainly not warmed-over hash. How performers reputed to be of the first rank could have lent themselves to the imposture is a question which, one hopes, doesn’t invite one answer: that show business, too, has suffered a collapse of professional ethics. Things weren’t cheered along by an emcee who sadistically warned the audience that the Beatles wouldn’t be appearing and that each number was the last one. Did he hope to stir up a riot?
And so we come to the Beatles. So alive, original and imaginative were their two films one expected a live show of theirs to be just as different and inventive. Alas, they performed like any local combo, only not so spiritedly. There was no style, no verve, no poetry to their performance. They stood before mikes and opened their mouth, that was all. It was a one-two-three, “Now we’ll do this song.” They sang. “Now we’ll do this next song.” They sang. And so on, until they had sung, very listlessly, all the ten songs they had to sing. Then they bowed out. Who would have cared for an encore? Even the periodic squealing of girls seemed mechanical, not rapture but exhibitionism. The audience was too vexed over the poor sound, if they could hear at all, and the languor on stage, if they could see at all. Those who couldn’t see or hear didn’t miss anything.
Pouring out of the stadium, the folks who had paid up to P50 to be gypped were rebuked by the realities of their land. On the traffic island on Dakota, they saw a child asleep on the grass. Three more dirty babies slept on newspapers on the Vito Cruz sidewalk.
Their last day in Manila was suspenseful for the Beatles, who didn’t know till the last moment if they were leaving. The bags were packed, the cars waited, but they sat or paced about in their rooms in anxiety, waiting for word. Internal Revenue had announced it wouldn’t let the Beatles depart till they had paid taxes on their earnings here. Their managers and promoters scuttled back and forth, trying to get a clearance. A surety bond was finally put up. The Beatles learned they could take the 3:30 p.m. plane out.
The managers left ahead for the airport, with the luggage. The PC and the police had withdrawn security from the troupe; General Manager Willie Jurado of the MIA had announced he would extend no port courtesy to the Beatles. Courtesy? They couldn’t even get service! No porter would touch their bags; the managers had to lug the bags themselves to the airline counter.
At around two the Beatles checked out of their rooms. On the fourth-floor corridor waited two small groups of female fans, teen-agers and young matrons, who chased the boys into the elevator. Epstein had to hurl himself into the crowded lift to get on at all. The boys dashed out the backdoor of the hotel, where the cars waited. A single motorcycle cop escorted the motorcade to the airport. One car was full of security guards hired from a private agency.
What happened at the airport, according to one eyewitness, wouldn’t have happened if the Beatles hadn’t started running as though indeed running for their lives, though nobody was chasing them. On the ground floor of the airport was a small group of girl fans but otherwise no unusual crowd, just people seeing friends off. As soon as the Beatles alighted from their car they made a dash for the escalator. This drew attention to them. There were shouts of “The Beatles! The Beatles!” The teen-age girls then scampered after them. The Beatles reached the escalator and found it had been turned off. They had to run up to the second floor.
On the second floor they continued their frantic run, newsmen and the security guards at their heels. The people on the second floor may have thought that the Beatles were being hunted down and, following mob instinct, joined what they thought a chase, booing and hitting at the boys. Only Paul McCartney escaped the blows, being the fastest runner of all.
By the time they reached the customs zone the crowd had become a ferocious mob that couldn’t be kept out. The Beatles were rescued by MIA General Manager Jurado, who had gone to customs to expedite the Beatles’ departure himself. The Palace had sent Kokoy Romualdez to the airport with instructions to stop any violent demonstration and get the Beatles safely on board their plane. “Beatles here!” cried Jurado and beckoned them into a corner. Bu the crowd surged all around as Jurado swiftly but grimly processed the Beatles’ papers: he was responsible for them, all he wanted was to get them off his hands as fast as possible. All the time the crowd was whacking at the troupe and kicking them in the legs. When the papers were finished Jurado shouted: “Beatles out!” The crowd opened up but the poor boys and their managers now had to run a gantlet from customs to the waiting room. As they fled through the double line of jeerers they were cuffed, buffeted, kicked. They were all very pale. Ringo caught an uppercut on the chest; Epstein was knocked down to his knees; another manager dropped flat on the floor. The tearful girls at the scene were booed when they remonstrated and had to be escorted away by the police. American girls on the observation roof who cheered when the Beatles hove into view, running towards the plane, were likewise booed, and so menacingly the Americanitas thought it prudent to fade away fast.
When the boys were already on board and the ramp had been removed, Immigration suddenly remembered that the papers of two Beatle managers had not been stamped. So back went the ramp, down came the frightened managers, and the Beatles got an extra turn of the screw as they waited, sweating, for their two managers to come back. Finally it was all over and the plane took off with the boys who had written that song about not wanting to stay in a world without love.
They flew to New Delhi and stayed there a couple of days. “At least they’re on our side here,” said Ringo. “We don’t know what happened in Manila,” said Paul. “It was something political, I think,” said John Lennon.
A multitude of their fans, for whom Manila had become “sod,” were on hand to comfort them when they arrived in London the following Friday at dawn. “We were terrified,” said Paul McCartney of their Philippine experience. “If we go back there it would be with an H-bomb.” And George Harrison warned all entertainers against going to the Philippines—“unless you’re of fascist instincts.”
The Philippines was just as sore. As of last weekend, Malacañang had received some 200 telegrams denouncing the Beatles. Councilor Gerino Tolentino of Manila proposed that the Beatles be banned in perpetuity from the city; Caloocan City mulled a plan to ban Beatle records and movies; a Quezon City alderman proposed that the Beatle hairdo be declared illegal. Senator Ambrosio Padilla had to remind the hotheads that the various bans they proposed would violate personal rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.
Unhappiest over the mess is Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade Inc., for which the Beatles have turned out to be a “losing proposition.”
“I know we lost but I don’t know how. The only thing we can say is that we regret the whole thing, the entire hullabaloo, from the Palace incident down. And now I hear I’ll be sued by the Beatles.”
Epstein had been reported to be consulting lawyers in London on the possibility of legal action: “The aim will be to find out who was to blame for what.”
But the Beatles themselves seem sick and tired of the Manila brouhaha and only want to forget it.
“It was,” sighed John Lennon, “a terrible drag.”
The Nation: 1965
By Quijano de Manila
The profile of the controversial present becomes incontrovertible, set against the past.
June 12, 1965—MID-DECADE of the Seething ’60s finds Philippine society knocking itself hard. We glance at the state and say that, politically, we are a failed society. We study the prices and say that, economically, we are a bankrupt society. We peruse the crime figures and say that, spiritually, we are a violent society. We devour the latest scandals and say that, morally, we are a sick society.
Some may wonder how anybody so sick could knock himself so vigorously. Others may argue that the seeming vigor is the delirium of fever.
Are we in excelsis or in extremis? Neither. We are in transitu.
The 1960s will go down in our history as the decade during which we finally got off the ground and saw everything with fresh eyes. The transition has been from earthbound to airborne, and is a transcending of the peasant. This has nothing to do with politics or economics. In fact, the reason we have no clear picture of today is that we’re always being offered either a political picture—good or bad, according to which faction is the painter—or an economic picture, again either happy or gloomy, according to whose statistics we are citing. But a nation is not its politics or economics. A nation is its people. And a nation changes only when the people change.
We are all agreed that we have to change our basic viewpoints and attitudes if we are to become progressive and dynamic; at the same time we fear the dynamics of change, we dislike the risks and uncertainties that the modern industrial nations have accepted as a way of life. We cling to the static society, where today is just like yesterday and tomorrow will be just like today. And we are so fearful and so furious today because that society has exploded from under our feet; we are up in the air; and nothing will ever be fixed again: not prices, not morals, nor ideas, nor creeds.
That’s the revolution we’re undergoing at the moment.
Ours has hitherto been an earthbound peasant-oriented society. Our values were peasant values; our attitudes, peasant attitudes. It’s not merely sentimentality that impels us (the politicians especially) to glorify the peasant and profess an obsession over his lot; we think thus to preserve the peasant society which is a static society, because we long for security. But the revolution we are now engaged in is against peasantness: against routine meekness, resignation, fatalism and provincialism. To change, we have to kill the peasant in us, because it is the peasant mentality that has kept us earthbound, mean and poor through the ages. Of a great American writer, Willa Cather, who grew up among the now-vanished peasantry of the American Middle West, it’s said that her novels represent “the triumph of mind over Nebraska.” The 1960s may signify our triumph over peasantness, our liberation from the peasant mentality.
The liberation is evident in our changed attitudes to everything from money to morals. Our money notions today are especially illuminating.
The older generation still winces when buying what yesterday were regarded as “luxuries”—say a car or a TV set or stove and oven: it’s the peasant in us that winces. At the grocer’s, when told that a kilo of grapes costs four pesos, the peasant in us shudders and we repeat the peasant’s classic expression of horror: “Naku, kuwarta na ang kakanin mo diyan!” This is the money notion we inherited from the peasant society: the idea of money as something solid, fixed, sacrosanct, a thing in itself. But as modern physics began only when matter was viewed not as “inert” but as energy, so capitalism begins only when money ceases to be a feudal token for barterable goods and becomes an expression of energy. A peso in the hands of a peasant is only a hundred centavos; in the hands of a potential Rockefeller it’s a wealth-producing wand, the wand of a wizard. So the figures in a chessboard vary in value according to who is handling them, expressing, in the hands of a chess master, that master’s skill and quick wit and genius.
Philippine society has not yet reached the Rockefeller stage but has already shed its peasant-society inertness—which is why we are so outraged by the insensibility of our young to the “value” of money: “When I was your age, my baon to school was only two centavos; and how I clutched those two centavos, how carefully I spent them!” Now we give them a peso or two and they handle the money with none of the reverence we had for our two centavos. The difference goes beyond the difference in value between two pesos today and two centavos in the old days, because it’s a difference in cultural attitude. The emphasis has shifted from money as a value in itself to the values of comfort, of the good life.
This is amusingly illustrated by the problem of prices.
One mother groaning over high prices fell to reminiscing nostalgically on the days before the war, when eggs cost only so much, fresh milk could be had for a song, butter and canned goods were ridiculously cheap, the prices of meats were a joke, and apples, grapes and oranges didn’t cost a king’s ransom. Whereupon her children exclaimed that their mother must have enjoyed quite a table when she was young; with everything so cheap, she must have had eggs, fresh milk, butter and canned goods, lots of meat, and apples, grapes and oranges every day! That brought up the lady short. Thinking back again, and comparing her children’s table with her childhood table, she realized, with a shock, that what was ordinary fare for them had been “luxuries” for her, though she had been young in supposedly cheaper times. She had tasted apples only during Christmas; the poorest urchin on the streets of Manila today hardly regards an apple as an event. Yet she had not come from a poor family; they were reasonably well off but had lived as meanly—from today’s viewpoint—as though they were impoverished: a movie once a week; new clothes only on one’s birthday; new shoes only on Christmas. And though she now looked back on those days as a heaven of low prices, what she actually remembered were her parents groaning over the prices and the hard times. What she found herself having to admit was that her children ate better, dressed better and lived better than she had done as a child.
That lady’s second thoughts overtake all of us. We understood the value of money all right in the old days, but not the value of living as well as we could. The good life is not a matter of prices; it’s a state of mind. We lived meanly in the days when prices, as we realize now, were low; but the nation in general, in this year of grace and high prices, 1965, lives much, much better than it did then. Examples can be piled up.
If we dare to vaunt that first-run movie houses before the war cost only 45 centavos, if you went to the matinee, only 55 centavos if you went later, the inevitable question is: who went to first-run movie houses in those days? One went there, all dressed up, maybe two or three times a year, on special occasions like a birthday or an anniversary or a first date—and the going was really an “occasion” in itself, for only the foreign community and the rich went to the first-run movie houses. Today everybody goes to first-run movie houses, on any day of the year, and thinks nothing of it. There has been a breakdown here not only in money values but in class barriers.
The same can be said of Baguio, which used to be practically just an American resort before the war. Today the people you meet there in summer include the janitor in your office, the boy who delivers your morning paper, the fishwife you buy from in Quiapo, the waitresses in your downtown restaurant, and your former housegirls. How come the masses have taken over Baguio only now, when it costs so much more, and not back in the days when it was presumably cheaper to go there?
Thinking back to restaurant prices in Manila in prewar days, one can only wonder why we didn’t “eat out” oftener in those days. A couple of times a year—again on special occasions—we did go to the famed old Chinese restaurants with the kundol and the hot towels; but “eating out” became a Filipino custom only in these more expensive times. A restaurant like Max’s can cater to the hoi polloi and flourish, though the price of the chicken there has gone up to three pesos, the price of the steak to four pesos (served with a bowl of tossed salad). Would Max’s have been possible in prewar times? People then would have fainted if asked to pay three pesos—or whatever the equivalent price would have been—for a fried chicken; and the reason would not have been that they had chicken, for cheap, every day at home, or even every Sunday.
Comparing ourselves then with ourselves now, we see the change, we appreciate the difference, and all talk about having been better then, of having lived better in those days, becomes so much eyewash. We were clenched into ourselves then, cramped and timorous; we have opened out now—and the change shows in the houses we live in: bright open houses designed for living, through which the air blows.
The houses we developed during the Spanish period had nobility and grace, besides being efficient dwelling places, with their tall spacious rooms and generous windows; but from the 1900s through the 1930s there was a very obvious debasement of taste: our domestic architecture produced mostly monstrosities, of which the flimsy, dingy, stuffy accesorias that became prevalent in the 1920s were the most squalid. But even people with money didn’t know how to build for comfort. The lower middle class was then putting up those horrors called houses which seemed to be all sala—one vast sala edged with hot little cubicles of bedroom and a space of outer darkness: a drab kitchen, a dim bath, a dank toilet. As for the rich, they were confecting those wedding-cake mansions that may still be studied mirthfully in provincial capitals and along Manila’s Taft Avenue. The change in our character shows in the shift of emphasis from the showplace sala (which, in today’s houses, has all but melted into the dining room) to the more vital areas of bedroom, bath and kitchen. When we build now we build for our own convenience; we don’t stint on the space we really use (like bedroom and bath) just to have as much space as possible for a sala that will stagger visitors, which was the basic principle of prewar architecture.
Today’s Filipino house is more functional, more sensible, and bespeaks a more casual society. Even the rich have learned the elegance of understatement; even the poor have learned to discount façade. The need for face comes from a lack of self-confidence. We have become more willing to be taken for what we are. And this is the second big change wrought by the revolution of the 1960s: the Filipino had lost his timidity.
The Verve of Independence
That timidity is best illustrated by the way we used to dress. From the 1900s through the war, a sartorial cowardice possessed the Filipino as it was impressed on him that, because of his dark skin and hot climate, he shouldn’t dare to wear colors. We know that the Spanish-era Filipinos—the men as well as the women—dressed with more spirit, dared the flamboyant in hue, and to hell with the hot climate; but throughout the American era the Filipino meekly submitted to the white-drill uniform. There were a couple of revolts, very late in the era: the Hawaiian shirt, for instance, and the McCrory style; but by and large we hewed to the Puritan line and stuck to prim white.
Our timidity affected even our women (though the terno continued to be gorgeous) and inhibited them from colors supposed to be not proper for brown folk. As late as the 1930s, society girls in Manila were debating whether a Filipina could wear such colors as red, yellow and orange, and the hesitant opinion was that maybe she could, if she “moved” in the dress. Today’s Filipino girls would find the mere argument hilariously incredible: they dress with verve, in any color they please. And the Filipino male likewise now runs the gamut of the spectrum with the aplomb of a peacock. Our clothes are a declaration of independence—and the hell with the hot climate.
The importance of such social manifestations cannot be underrated because they express radical changes within the society. The fashions of an era may tell us more about that era than its politics. In this instance, the testimony of prewar male fashions controverts the usual political interpretation of the American era: that it liberated us in spirit from musty medievalism. What we actually read in the fashions is a long spell of inhibitedness—that notorious “inferiority complex” of the Filipino—expressed during the Empire Days in the puritanical americana cerrada, a white coat chastely buttoned up to the jaw (note that the Filipino associates this garb with America) and later on in the white-drill uniform, which bespoke national docility, submission, conformism and conservatism. The timidity expressed by these fashions was broken only in the present time. Black suits, multi-hued knitwear and the Beatle shirt testify to a spiritedness in the contemporary Filipino that makes his prewar paisanos look, in retrospect, like white mice.
This spiritedness spills over into manners—and here we are on more controversial ground. The complaint is that today’s Filipinos, especially the young ones, are toughs, rowdies, boors, drones and donkeys; and the front pages daily seem to offer proof of this. Yet harking back to the days when the young were “seen and not heard,” one feels, while admiring the manners, that the old policy of gagging and reining in the young was partly responsible for the Filipino’s timidity. What it produced was generation after generation of Filipinos who knew their place, who were prim, gentle, sheepish and rather sissified. Any mother of today will say that the difference between her young and herself young is that her children are not afraid of company, are not afraid to speak up, unlike in the days when the young were, yes, unworldly but only because they were kept from the world. It was not a wise policy, as we all learned when the war came. The disillusions we suffered might not have been so excruciating if we had been less naïve. But our children today are, as we ourselves say, tough: they know it’s a violent world.
Well, okay, the parents will argue, we don’t mind if our children are wild if only they were as good in school as we were. And the parents will fetch out that old chestnut about a college student today being only the equivalent of a seventh-grader in prewar times. How true is this? The prewar scholar was very bright indeed; at the drop of a report card he could spout the Gettysburg Address, tell you about Washington and the cherry tree, or quote from Longfellow and Tennyson. But it was all a rather bookish brightness, smelling of the schoolma’ams of New England and that little red schoolhouse. Even in those days, the older generation was uneasily aware that something was wrong: that the young, though seemingly so educated, had become ignorant and provincial in a fashion that they of the older generation had not been in their more barbarous day. They had been conscious of Europe, of Rome and Greece, on the one hand, and of the Revolution, of Rizal and Bonifacio and Aguinaldo, on the other hand; but the little parrot products of the public school system seemed to know only America, had no history but American history, had no literature but literature in English, had no knowledge but book knowledge. The bright minds were one-track minds.
Today, alas, the average student can’t spout the Gettysburg Address, has never heard of Washington and that cherry tree, and couldn’t quote any poet at all; but he can drive a car, ride a scooter, repair a radio, tinker with the TV, master a machine, tell you about satellites, learn any dance, pack a gun, and mix a birgincoke cocktail. If he’s not as bookish as his forebears it’s because education has moved from lessons in a classroom to practical experience of the world. Far from the prewar seventh grader being the equal of today’s collegian, it may be that, in actual range of knowledge, in sophistication, yesterday’s college student is not even the equal of a ten-year-old boy today, unless we equate knowledge with book knowledge. If the young seem such dullards to us, it’s because we expect them to spout the Gettysburg Address like we did; if they seem so wild, it’s because we still cling to the standards of a timid past. Yet we, too, are trying to disengage from that past—and the best proof of this is the rise of drinking in the Philippines.
This, again, is controversial ground; anybody who tries to justify today’s heavy drinking as part of a cultural process is bound to be pulverized; but the fact remains that the drinking Filipino is advancing into territory he timidly skirted before. Who of us drank in prewar days? The old men, with memories of a noble tradition distilled in their bottles of Domecq; and a few garrulous old crones, nursing asthma and a cup of ginebra. We had two beer factories, but the product was mostly consumed by the American soldiery, in saloons with swinging doors, foot railings at the bar, and brass spittoons. We natives never ventured in there; we played it genteel, with our limonada and sarsaparilla. Our not drinking was part of a timid culture—which is why a revolt against that timidity was bound to involve machismo drinking, to prove to the world and to ourselves that the Filipino is as capable of drink, too, as of anything else on earth. From the inhibited society in which so many doors were closed to us, we have moved into a society in which we demand our right to enter every door—and that includes the bar’s swinging doors. Today the Filipino knows his beer, his martini, his stateside, his cuatro cantos, his long-neck, his marka demonyo, and his birgincoke. The bar is still not an item in his society, but the beer hall is. And he has jumped onto the cocktail circuit, once sacred only to whites. For our drinking marks our emergence into the great world. We are no longer afraid of “company.”
Recall Philippine society in prewar days. The Filipinos kept to themselves. The Americans kept to themselves. The British and Europeans kept to themselves and to the Americans. The Chinese and Japanese kept away from themselves. And each social world was a closed world. When war loomed, some Manila ladies tried to bring Filipinos and Americans together socially but found the social gulf impassable. This now sounds absurd but it was fact then. And the irony is that today, when Americans and Filipinos are no longer “related,” they have come closer together, at the cocktail party. For the Filipino, cocktail glass in hand, has invaded the worlds formerly closed to him. This is a very minor example of the third big change that has come over the contemporary Filipino, a change that has become most evident during the 1960s: the Filipino has gained in mobility.
The Nerve of Freedom
This mobility is aside from the economic migrations—like the influx of Visayans into Manila or the trek to Cagayan and Mindanao—that have marked the postwar period, though these migrations too, or, rather, their stepped-up rate, reveal increased adventurousness in what used to be a very stationary folk. But need rather than nerve may explain the migrations, whereas what could be called a cultural mobility denotes a change in the nature of our society.
The average Manileño of prewar days, for instance, got no farther away from his city than Antipolo in May or a parent’s hometown for the fiesta. Foreigners raved over Baguio and Mayon and Zamboanga and Sulu; but Filipinos felt no itch to see their land for themselves. The lack of transportation, roads or money does not explain this lack of curiosity. One could grow up in Makati and never have attended the river festival in nearby Pateros; and Manila seemed, even for provincial Tagalogs, so faraway that a trip to the city was in the nature of an expedition.
Today, though it’s supposed to be hard times, the provincianos have made Manila a commuting point; the masses join the gentry in Baguio for the summer; and more and more of us are traveling to Mayon and Zamboanga and Sulu to see the marvels there with our own eyes. We now think nothing of motoring to Batangas just for a dip, or to the Hundred Islands just for a picnic, or up to the Ilocos coast just for an overnight rest. On weekends last summer, on the highways, as the crowded palm-bedecked buses and family cars sped out past in endless file on their way to excursion spots, one had the feeling of watching a nation on the move. It’s quite an exhilarating feeling for one who remembers this as a most stay-at-home nation.
The mobility comes from greater curiosity, which in turn springs from an aroused interest in our country and people and history. One reason we didn’t bother, in the old days, to go see a nearby festival like, say, the Pateros river ritual was that to do so would have been “backward” of us, indicating a most unhealthy interest in the past at a time when we were all so anxious to be very American and modern. One was better occupied memorizing the Gettysburg Address or reading Washington and the cherry tree than watching superstitious processions and wasteful fiestas. Only when this imported Puritanism gave out did we get around to discovering Pateros, which, now, we show off to diplomats and tourists. And now it’s the intellectuals who head pilgrimages to Capiz, to experience the ati-atihan, and to Marinduque, to enjoy the moriones. It’s no longer backward but, rather, highly fashionable to attend an interesting procession, and to hunt for old churches, and to collect saints’ images. The “past” we despised is now very “in.”
This reversal of old attitudes has naturally made us skeptical of all the other ideas we once thought permanent. The skepticism underlies our current resistance to involvement in Vietnam, a resistance that may be contrasted with our reaction to a similar calamity in the 1930s: the Spanish civil war. Then we were all militant republicans eager to get involved. Bishop Aglipay offered to organize an expeditionary force to fight in Spain for the Loyalists, and aid-to-Spain centers sprang up in Manila. The bell that tolled in Spain tolled for us; and Mr. Hemingway’s bridge was no farther away than our doorstep. Today we couldn’t care less if all the bridges in Vietnam were bombed. As Mr. Johnson says, “There’s no blood in a bridge.” And nobody quotes Donne or Hemingway about Vietnam. It’s not that we have become less fervent about democracy, only more cynical about war in general, especially wars of liberation and wars to end war. We have become cynical about bells that, we are assured, toll for all mankind but turn out to have been tolling only for us. Once bitten, twice shy. The others get postwar booms; we get bombs. So, though no man is an island, we’d rather cultivate our own garden.
Faith is the flesh of freedom but skepticism is the nerve; and as we stand in midyear, and in mid-decade, to ponder, on our new freedom day, the state of the nation, we may realize that we are so critical of ourselves because we have come so confident of ourselves. We can take anything, even self-detraction, so we throw the book at ourselves. It’s a healthy attitude. As the saying goes, it’s when you begin to think you’re safe that you’re in danger.
The prophets that cry havoc do us a service by impelling us into self-examination. Have we really become degenerate? Is the country really going to the dogs? Is our condition really disconsolate compared with happier times? Or, the handicaps notwithstanding—like rising prices, rising taxes, rising crime rates, rising impatience—are we not living better today than at any other time in our history? An honest look at prewar times, for instance, can only force us to admit that we didn’t even know how to live well then, when we could afford to, because we prized money not as a means but as a thing in itself.
But the main point about the 1960s is that we have been responding to the challenges of the decade with changes in our character. The changes have been detailed above: the shift from a respect for money to a respect for our own well-being; the shedding of the peasant’s timidity and of the puritan ethos; and the consequent increase in self-confidence, mobility, curiosity and cynicism.
If these changes have resulted in civic unrest, a fractious young and general turmoil, they have also resulted in the events which will go down in history: the change in our Independence Day, the nationalist revival, the Borneo claim and Maphilindo, the land reform act, the agitation against the bases and parity rights, the various rallies against the American embassy, the fight for an independent stand on Vietnam and other Asian questions, the salary-equity strikes against foreign firms, and all the other insurgencies of the last four years that are explicable only if we assume radical changes in our character.
From the steam and smoke of the turmoil emerges a profile of the Nation in this year of grace 1965 that’s clear-cut enough and far from depressing. At no other moment in our history, not even in the 1890s, was the profile of the Nation so definite, so precise, as during these Seething ’60s.
The rest of the decade may show us the full face, the discovered identity.
“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto”
by Quijano de Manila
November 1963–THE cooked goose, the swung deal, the clinched victory, the mission accomplished have had rich utterance in street argot. Your ability to remember Arreglado na ang kilay will date you. Later gamier words for it are Kuarta na! and Yari na! The classic expression is Tapos na ang boksing, which will always sound unbearably sad to those who heard the great Recto saying it during the 1957 campaign.
This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.
The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!
The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.
The fun began with the assault on the mestizo. Just when people were thinking the NPs should be thrashed for conducting what can only be described as a hate campaign, the LPs, who had been behaving more primly, got their nice record spoiled for them by their own chief, the President, with his unhappy remark on the “mestizo arrogance” of Vice-President Pelaez. Though efforts were made to explain away the gibe, the general reaction was: Why bring up racism at all? But if that’s the point of the fuss, then the matter doesn’t end here, and the veep, too, must be haled in and declared just as guilty as the President in this matter of racism. Or maybe guiltier. The President’s tongue slipped only once; but the veep, in his campaign, at least in Bulacan, brought up the question of race in after speech, as all those who saw him campaigning can testify.
In Bulacan, the veep invariably began his speeches by denying, apropos of nothing, that he was a mestizo, or half-white. This was before anybody accused him of “mestizo arrogance.” He seemed to feel a need to explain away his European color and appearance, and his explanation was mystical: his mother had “conceived” him after St. Anthony. But though his skin was fair, his heart was kayumanggi. In other words, though he might look like a mestizo, he really was not a mestizo. Now this is equivalent to a Harlem Negro saying that, despite his looks, he’s really a Dutchman. Fellow Negroes could accuse him of being ashamed of his race. Fellow mestizos could complain that before the President is said to have insulted their breed, Pelaez had already done son, by gratuitously denying to be what he obviously is. Dark-skinned Filipinos may feel flattered that their vice-president is trying to pass for brown; but a man who’s embarrassed by the color of his skin, and apologizes for it, ultimately heightens our awareness of racial differences. Why bring up racism at all, we justifiably cry. And Pelaez is as bound to answer that question as his adversary.
Fortunately for the nation, before barricades could be put up by the chabacanos of Cavite and Zamboanga and the entresuelistas of Manila, the potential Battle of Birmingham in reserve got kicked off center stage by another act: the unturbanned magus called Robot with his clouded crystal ball. Robot’s revelations shook the local political earth. The Liberals would win the senatorial race by 5-3, or more likely by 6-2, with either Padilla or Roxas as topnotcher, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Ziga, Climaco and Liwag. The eighth place would be contested by De la Rosa, Balao, Puyat and Cuenco, with the first two having “a slight edge over the others.”
As it turned out, the topnotcher berth was contested by Roxas and Tolentino, not Padilla and Roxas; Puyat, whom Robot placed almost outside the magic eight, landed in fifth place; De la Rosa, Balao and Cuenco ended way, way below eighth place; and the unmentioned Ganzon and Lim fought it out with Climaco for the tail end of the line.
The Robot findings, released to the press a week before election day, were published three days before the elections, and one day before the U.P. statistical center released its own poll survey, which also had the LPs leading, 6-2, with Padilla and Roxas in the first two places, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Climaco, Ziga and Liwag, and the eighth place being contested by Balao and Puyat. As Robot, aggrieved, would later point out, the U.P. poll escaped the ire of the politicians, but Robot got it from both sides.
De la Rosa and Cuenco angrily questioned the accuracy of the poll. The NPs were, of course, even angrier. They denounced the poll as “part of the Liberal scheme to cheat” in the elections, “a smoke-screen to prepare the people’s minds to accept rigged election returns.” The Robot poll results had been “doctored” to produce a “bandwagon mentality” among voters, and their “premature publication” was an LP propaganda gimmick. The NPs insisted that they would either sweep the polls or get a clear majority.
The day after the elections, people were quipping that there was one sure loser: Robot. Its forecast had flopped.
Says Vice-President Francisco Lopez of Robot Statistics: “What we published was an estimate of the situation as of a given period of time: from late October to early November. It was not a forecast, it was not a prediction. If we had wanted to make a real forecast, we would have continued polling up to the eve of the elections.”
The trouble with this disclaimer is that Robot was using that very word, forecast, during the days it was frantically trying to decide whether or not to publish its poll findings ahead of the balloting, or wait, as it did in 1959, until the last ballot had been cast. One-upmanship finally prompted the “premature publication.” Robot feared to be one-upped by another poll organization, and decided to release its findings to the press a week before election day.
The other poll organization was Index, which had, in late October, begun publishing a series of reports on voter attitudes based on a survey. Robot felt sure that the series would be climaxed by a forecast of election results. The fear was unfounded; but Robot not only didn’t want to be beaten to a forecast but was afraid the poll figures it had been gathering month after month since the campaign started might be stolen and used.
On November 2, Robot invited three distinguished citizens—Father Francisco Araneta, Professor Ariston Estrada and Judge Pastor Endencia—to read its latest survey on poll trends. Copies of the survey were read and signed by the three men, and then locked up in a vault, as proof that Robot already had those figures at that time. One-upmanship is a nervous way of life in every branch of Madison Avenue.
This was on a Saturday. The following Monday, November 4, Robot, apparently still jittery about being beaten to the draw, assembled representatives of the four leading Manila newspapers and provided them with copies of the latest Robot poll results.
Explains Robot’s Armando Baltazar: “That was for their guidance only. We wanted them to know the real score. Their columnists were making predictions and might go off on a wild tangent. The publishers could keep their columnists from going out on a limb if they knew what the figures were. But we made it clear that we did not want any publication.”
Robot’s George Cohen modifies this: the poll figures were released to the press; it was up to the press to decide whether to publish them or not, and when. On November 8, Cohen dispatched a letter to the publishers:
“You will recall last Monday that Robot wished to impose an embargo on the release of its election estimates until the closing of the polls on election day when survey results could not possibly be accused of influencing events. Robot in fact does not believe that at this stage of the election campaign a release of its survey results now would significantly affect its outcome—if at all. However, Robot does not wish to be the first polling group to be releasing pre-election forecasts—but as a public opinion/marketing research organization it feels obliged researchers do. Thus please feel free to publish the results enclosed within red quotation marks if other polling organizations or research groups (exclude informal newspaper or magazine surveys) such as the University of the Philippines, Index, et al. have or are in the act of publishing national senatorial election forecasts. If not, Robot respectfully requests that you withhold publication until the polls have closed on election day.
“Finally we wish to remind that some 15% of the voters still do not know whom they will select for their senatorial choices on November 12. This figure constitutes a 4% increase over the ‘don’t know’ers’ since September, thus indicating considerable uncertainty on the part of the voters. Thus last minute shifts of preferences are possible even on election day—which could upset the above forecast. What the forecast represents is the best estimate of the state of the public opinion at a given point of time, 26 October to 6 November.”
Through the tangle of language, the publishers presumably saw permission to publish, since the U.P. was “in the act of publishing” its own forecast. But why did Robot’s “best estimate of the state of public opinion” fail to tally with actual public opinion as expressed in the elections?
Cohen and his colleagues say that they went by trends. When they began polling in July, Puyat, for instance, was in fourth place but kept slipping, slipping, until he was in seventh or eighth place. The Puyat trend was, therefore, downward: “But he didn’t slip as much as we expected him to. He caught it in time, arrested his decline.” Robot failed to catch that stoppage and went by the general Puyat trend—which is why the forecast had him still slipping off the tail end.
Another candidate whose trend was a downward slide. De la Rosa, was popularly believed to be a sure winner. Robot was a bit more accurate here, and surprised everybody by having De la Rosa just hovering over the edge of the eighth place: “If we had surveyed more, up to a few days before the elections, we might have caught him on his way out.” The U.P. poll did find De la Rosa already out.
The three fastest risers, according to Robot, were Roxas, Diokno and Liwag. Diokno started at 13th or 14th place, rose steadily, suddenly shot straight up during the last phase of the campaign. If graphed, his progress would be a long slanting line that ends in a steep curve. Liwag started at 16th, worked his way up to 7th in a more even manner. Most spectacular of all was Roxas, who started below the eighth place and rocketed to the top. Robot’s data indicate how effective propaganda can be when skillfully used, for Roxas, Diokno and Liwag had the smartest publicity machines in this campaign.
The candidates that really got Robot into trouble were Climaco and Ganzon. Robot estimated that Climaco would outpoll Ganzon in Mindanao, 2-1. The elections proved they had about even strength there—which, says Cohen, is inexplicable, since Climaco, after all, is from Mindanao. Cohen hazards the guess that Climaco’s drive against smuggling while in Customs turned the Moro vote against him.
To people who say that Robot took a beating in these elections, Cohen points out that his organization had a near-perfect score in the gubernatorial races, pinpointing the winners in 21 out of the 22 provinces it polled. (Robot, like everybody else, guessed wrong in Bulacan.) Cohen also claims that Robot scored almost 100% in its forecast of election results in the Manila area; it missed only one winner: the vice-mayor of Quezon City. But Robot saw the Manila vote as 4-4 in the senatorial election (the actual ratio was 6-2 in favor of the NPs) and 4-1 in the mayoralty contest (Villegas actually had only about a 2-1 lead over Oca). Cohen has two explanations for the increased figures in favor of the NPs: their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda was a major event of the campaign, giving the NP senatorial candidates, and Oca along with them, the benefit of maximum public exposure, and exerting a terrific influence on the undecided vote. Cohen’s other explanation is that Manila has a large floating vote: the squatters but still vote in the city. Because it polled only actual residents, Robot failed to get a picture of the total Manila vote.
Just how much do these forecasts affect voters’ decisions? In the U.S. not at all—or so they say. In the Philippines, such forecasts, Cohen admits, may sway votes, but only if published, say, ten days or two weeks before the elections. But a forecast published practically on the eve of the polls can have little effect on them. Cohen cites an instance. In 1961, just two days before the elections, Mayor Lacson, against Robot’s wishes, published the Robot poll survey that showed Garcia was losing. The forecast, according to Cohen, did not appreciably alter voting trends. But it did have one unexpected result that has passed into political legend. The story goes that money given to the leaders to distribute on election day was not handed out because, the leaders told themselves, Garcia was going to lose anyway. Failure to flood the polls with handouts may have helped Garcia lose.
The NPs, who are usually so zealous for freedom of expression, are currently up in arms against public opinion polls. Senator Primicias threatened to sue Robot for multimillion-peso damages and to have it investigated as a foreign agency interfering with Philippine elections. Robot says its capital is 90% Filipino, that the company is run by Filipinos, and that it is in no way subsidized by World Gallup Polls. One NP who doesn’t believe the Robot forecast was “rigged to please its client” (Robot says it had clients from both parties in this campaign) is Diokno. Robot tried to assess the situation as best it could, but, says Diokno, it failed to take into account an important “x-factor”: people’s fear of the administration. As Robot was not really undecided, was already for the NP, but preferred to keep mum and express itself only at the polling booths, for fear of reprisals.
The Robot forecast appeared the Saturday before election day. The NPs had their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda that Monday night; and Robot, the second favorite target, suffered the slings and arrows for outrageous fortune-telling. The crowd the NPs drew that night was unquestionably the hugest to assemble on Plaza Miranda since the time of Magsaysay.
Manileños who attended both the LP and the NP miting de avance could not but note the “visayanization” of their city, its utter conquest by the seafolk of the South. The LP crowd was still recognizable Manileño (Villegas’s yeba urbanites) though it’s significant that the speaker who made the greatest hit with the audience that Sunday night was Climaco of Zamboanga. The other “Star of the South,” Gerry Roxas, didn’t shine so bright that night, through no fault of his own. He was rising to speak when word came that the President had not yet arrived. It turned out that the President had not yet arrived; so Roxas preceeded to the mike. As he started to speak the stage and plaza buzzed again with he rumor that the President was already there. “I rushed through my speech,” recalls Roxas, “like a locomotive.” Had he been allowed to speak at his leisure he might have proved that the witching powers associated with his province now work as well on Plaza Miranda.
The following night, at the NP miting de avance, there was again no doubt that the crowd responded most fraternally to another Southerner, Senator Roseller Lim of Zamboanga—and this on the testimony of a Pampango-Manileño, Senator Puyat. A forecaster could indeed have read in the size and temper of that multitude on Plaza Miranda the great swing of the South to the Opposition that the next day’s polls would reveal. If the politicos want a new rule on Manila, here’s a possible one: As Manila goes, the South goes. Because Manila is now the biggest Southern city in the Philippines.
Puyat says he felt rather scared when the atmosphere became so charged with passion the miting turned into a mighty dialogue between speaker on stage and the crowd below.
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
“I felt,” says Puyat, “that if the speaker had shouted On to Malacañang! that mob would have followed—and I fear to think what would have happened there. We politicians carry a big responsibility.”
As one listened to Puyat’s account, one had the creepy feeling, too, that our political campaigns have gotten out of hand and are becoming sick.
But during those two pre-poll days, Sunday and Monday, it felt like fiesta, like New Year’s Eve, especially since the firecracker ban had apparently been lifted and the savage things crackled underfoot, along with the watusi, as massed marchers, as torrents of torches, surged up every street toward the town plazas and the mitings de avance. As the people marched shouting, fireworks lit up the skies to the thunder of rockets. The candidates held open house all day and all night; arroz caldo and pancit perpetually simmered in caldrons in the yards. Bus rides got pelted with showers of leaflets as if it was carnival time and this was the confetti. A blaze of electric bulbs framed the portraits of the candidates, full length, in full color, in action, in the style started by Lacson: the giant figures jutting right out of the frames, waving a hand, or pointing at the beholder, or striding forward into the air. Some billboards carried multiple portraits and a title: The Four Aces, The Magnificent 7. One rode through one gorgeous arch after another and pondered the thought that politicians are the only people in the world who build triumphal arches before they have triumphed. Ah, but it seemed so right then; everybody would win; we all shared in the excitement; the very air was festive. We were having a cold wave then, and the campaigners turned out in hats and jackets, in sweaters and mufflers. The country was supposed to have gone dry, but you could get a drink in almost any restaurant along the way. They served it in pitchers and you drank it from cups or colored plastic glasses.
After all that, election day itself was anticlimactic, very quiet in Manila. Mayor Villegas began the day with a mass, breakfasted at a leader’s house, had a haircut and a mud pack, holed up at the Army and Navy. Oca voted in San Nicholas, slept out the day at a friend’s house in Lavezares. Senator Puyat and his wife voted at the precinct on Mayon in Quezon City. Voting at the same time in the same place were Senator Padilla and his wife. Contrapartidos but good friends, Puyat and Padilla hailed each other, their wives merrily chatted. Right after the LP miting de avance, which ended at dawn, Roxas gave a thank-you breakfast for his campaign staff, then flew to Roxas City, where he stayed through election day. “That was,” he says, “the first time I went to Capiz in this campaign.” Diokno, too, departed for his home province, Batangas, right after the NP miting de avance, which ended only a couple of hours before the polls opened. He and his wife were among the first to vote in Taal. Riding back to Manila, they were stopped by so many well-wishers along the way it was noon when they reached home. Diokno fled to bed and slept till evening.
In Manila, few people stayed up all night to follow the counting; but the surrounding towns kept vigil and the winners started celebrating at dawn. In one suburban town, victory was proclaimed at four a.m. by a fire engine racing up and down the streets, siren a-wailing and bell a-ringing, while the people on it yelled: “Nanalo si Mayor!” For the losers, that was a bleak day, the caldrons in the yard now cold and empty, and out on the street, in front of their gates, the mocking music of the brass bands hired by the winners to serenade the defeated with the Marcha Funebre, a cute rite of Philippine elections.
The NPs were leading in the Senate race by 6-2, then by 5-3; and there was a rumor that Terry Adevoso was sneaking out of the country: someone had seen him getting a passport. Then the tide turned: the LPs briefly led by 5-3, then dropped to a tie with the Opposition; and the talk now was that Adevoso had changed his mind about leaving. Adevoso himself says, laughing, that he had really been scheduled to leave the day after the polls, to visit shipyards in Japan; but the trip was postponed for a few days so he could make a stop first in Hong Kong to attend the opening of the PNB branch there.
The Thursday after the elections, the NPs began muttering about the slow-down in election returns reportage. They assembled for an angry conference that night at Amang Rodriguez’s office in Congress, behind closed doors, but there are guesses as to what they decided to do. The LPs were suspected of withholding returns from the provinces they controlled so they would know if they had a big enough backload of votes to cover the NP lead. If they didn’t have enough, they would know just how many more votes they must conjure up to win. Or so the NPs suspected. So, the NPs replied to the LP slow-down with a slow-down of their own, according to observers, who say that returns from such NP bailiwicks as Rizal, Quezon, Batangas and Negros Occidental suddenly dwindled to a trickle, because the NPs were withholding their returns too, so the LPs wouldn’t know just how far ahead the Opposition was. Whether this battle of slow-downs is true or not, there was certainly a freezing of the 4-4 position through the weekend.
While the NPs were conferring that Thursday night, word was going around that Gerry Roxas was protesting Tolentino’s position as topnotcher. The next day, Roxas issued a denial that he had lodged any protest: “I have not even seen Johnny Bora (Comelec chairman), much less talked with him. I’m happy enough that I’m included in the win group.” But in private Roxas said that there was an already admitted mistake in the figures credited to Tolentino. The error amounted to over 70,000 votes, which, if cancelled, would erase Tolentino’s 20,000-vote lead over Roxas and put Roxas in first place. However, Roxas’s attitude was: “Comelec made the mistake, it’s up to Comelec to correct.” Gerry said he didn’t want people to think he was so greedy for glory that just winning was not enough for him, he had to be topnotcher too.
Comelec had made no revision of the senatorial standings when election week ended. Tolentino stayed in first, Roxas in second. The Senate race was still tied at 4-4. Adevoso was still waiting for the pieces of his jigsaw puzzle to fall into place, but now said that a “4-4 result would be satisfactory enough for us.” He stressed one point: when the campaign began back in July, a poll survey showed that only two of the LP candidates were among the top eight. By October, surveys were showing that five LPs had shot up to winning positions. The party machine had been tested, had acquitted itself. The final results might not come up to expectations. “But,” shrugs Adevoso, “1963 is just a laboratory year.”
Adevoso sees the administration in mid-term as “a sala in which the furniture is being rearranged.” Everything is helter-skelter. A visitor who walked in might get an impression of disorder, not knowing what was going on: “In the same way, a reform administration like this one is shakes up things. People who have been hurt, or think they have been hurt, are bound to be antagonistic. We cannot expect, in mid-term that everybody will understand that what has to be done is now what’s popular but what’s right.”
The LP “rearrangement of the furniture” has certainly shaken up the country’s political sala. If the 1963 elections are regarded purely as local elections, which is what they are supposed to be anyway, then the Liberals scored a sensational success, by winning some 70% of the provinces, including such NP domains as Bulacan and Iloilo. Adevoso says that of the country’s 12 biggest provinces only two were in Liberals hands before the polls. The elections gave them six more of the topnotch provinces: Pangasinan, Bulacan, Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Iloilo.
But if the LPs think a victory on the local level presages victory in 1965, they should ponder the recent history of the NPs, who likewise scored an overwhelming victory in the local elections of 1959 but found that their control of the provinces didn’t help them any in the presidential elections of 1961.
If, on the other hand, this year’s elections are regarded as a national contest between the President and the Opposition, which is how the campaign projected the fight, then the most that can be said, if the score says at 4-4, is that the NPs didn’t win it. Their basic argument was that the people should not, for their own good, give the President a majority in the Senate. It is, therefore, immaterial whether the LPs win by a sweep or by 5-2 or only end up in a tie. As long as the LPs get a Senate majority, even if only by one vote, then the NPs have lost, because the people will have given the President what he asked for and rejected the arguments of the Opposition.
Since all the other issues, from high prices to rice queues, got tied up with this question of whether or not it was safe to give Macapagal a Senate majority, the people, if they give it to him, can be said to have rejected all the other issues too, by giving the President a vote of confidence. For though 4-4 is hardly an impressive score, it must still be regarded as a vote of confidence, since it will mean that the people do not believe that an LP Senate, which they decree with a 4-4 score, will bring on the death of democracy, the horrors of dictatorship, harder times, higher prices, more rice queues and more ax murders—which is how the NP campaign line went.
But a mid-term election is also an assessment of the administration. The vote of confidence only means that the people do not believe the President will use the Senate to make himself a dictator; it does not necessarily imply approval of his performance so far. To gauge the people’s judgment of the New Era, this year’s score will have to be compared with the mid-term scores of previous administrations. Under Quirino, it was 8-0 against Quirino’s regime, a clear condemnation. Under Magsaysay, it was 7-1 for the administration, an accolade. Under Garcia, it was 5-3, a passing mark. A score of 4-4 for the New Era would mean that, at mid-term, the people assessed the New Era as much better than Quirino’s administration, far below Magsaysay’s, not as good as Garcia’s. The grade would thus be, not excellent, not good, and not bad, but merely fair. It amounts to a repetition of what’s becoming a cliché pronouncement on the New Era: suspended judgment.
Still another way of interpreting the senatorial election results is to disregard party tags and consider the winners as having bee elected for their individual qualities and attitudes. Diokno says that the top five winners—Tolentino, Roxas, Diokno, Puyat and himself—all have one thing in common: a reputation for being “uncontrollable” by Macapagal. The people, according to Diokno, expressed their disapproval of Macapagal by voting most heavily for men who are, in one way or another, anti-Macapagal.
There’s something to Diokno’s theory, but it collapses when we consider that he and Tolentino had heir most dramatic encounters with Macapagal last year. If the people were really voting against Macapagal, it would have been more logical for them to vote for the men whose battle against the President are still fresh in the mind, being recently in the headlines: Lim, for instance, because of his filibuster in the Senate; Cabangbang, especially, because of his defiance of the Palace; and Oca, too, because of his anti-administration strikes. Since all these much-headlined foes of the President lost, anti-Macapagalism can hardly be said to have been a strong factor in the elections.
The Stonehill case, on the other hand, which was being written off as an issue, now appears to have been a factor after all, since it can now be said to have helped Diokno and Liwag win, and to have killed off Lim, Balao and De la Rosa.
Whether the campaign of Pelaez was an important factor is still in question. The vice-president probably got a score of 4-4. The massing of the South behind the Opposition is undoubtedly partly due to him; but he failed to show a similar ability to sway the voters in Luzon. The test province here is Bulacan, which was a Nacionalista stronghold to begin with. Pelaez personally campaigned there, personally proclaimed and endorsed the local NP candidates. They mostly lost. Bulacan turned Liberal.
A main factor is party organization—but it, too, must be given a 4-4 rating. The Liberals placed utmost confidence in the value of a strong organization, a smooth party machine, a rigidly disciplined team—but the results don’t justify their faith. The Nacionalistas, with a creakier machine that lacked the oil of finance, did just as well, though hindsight now exposes their grave errors. They made Ziga a sure winner by not putting up a woman candidate to divide the feminine vote; and they chose as campaign manager a man who, it turns out, could not make his personal candidates win in his own province. Puyat thinks the NP machine will have to be completely overhauled. Politics, he says, is not just an election every two years. It’s not a sometime thing but an all-the-time thing. A party machine shouldn’t be left to rust in storage until just a few months before an election; it should be kept running all the time. “Right after one campaign is over,” says Puyat, “we should immediately start preparing for the next one.” Somebody has already been putting that idea to practice, in case the NPs haven’t noticed.
Puyat still had, last week, for campaign souvenir, the hoarseness of the candidate. The two “wonder boys” of these elections, Roxas and Diokno, were still vigorously audible. Both gallantly said that the big factor in their wins were their wives, who attended to campaign minutiae. Diokno added that his children (he has eight) were a big help too: “They didn’t fall sick!”
As for the country, it looked as if a skyful of trash had been dumped on it: collapsed arches, tattered streamers, rusting tin plates, and an autumn litter of brown leaflets scattering in the wind. Walls and posts looked leprous with the rot of stickers. Worse than teen-age naughtiness were the gross splotches with which politics defaced the land. No public surface, not even the paving of the streets, escaped the tar or paint of propaganda. The gaudy billboards still stood, no longer lit up; but whatever the words on them, they all now sadly or gladly said the same thing:
“Tapos na, pare, ang butó-butó!”
The Winners ’61
By Quijano de Manila
November 1961–VICTORY, the poll victors found out after the polls, is chiefly an overpowering, devouring drowsiness.
Happy eyes glaze over, the eyelids droop; ecstatic smiles freeze, the head nods. Hands held out to congratulators grope and falter; and the words of joy fatten into a yawn.
Making the rounds of victors’ houses three days after the polls, one found doorbells and telephones ringing in vain, crowds of visitors collecting and dispersing unreceived, blue telegrams piling up on doorside tables, while the winners hungrily slept, slept, slept.
Not applause, nor congratulations, nor the latest poll returns widening the margin of victory, could be sweeter than bed and darkness, pillow and sheet.
Maria Kalaw Katigbak stayed home only long enough to make sure she was among the select senatorial eight, then reportedly fled to Lipa—“to get some sleep.” Her husband, an immense man, winces when congratulated on his victory, is resigned to being introduced as “the senator’s husband.”
Soc Rodrigo’s wife Medy says she’s glad it’s all over: “Now we can get some sleep.”
Dragged up from bed in the late afternoon, her eyes still swollen from drowse, Edith Pelaez groaned: “I haven’t had a good sleep in a long time!” Manny Pelaez came home from Mindanao three days after the polls, stayed just to bathe and change clothes, then rushed off again. About all his wife can remember him saying (she was too sleepy to ask about Mindanao) was that he was sleepy too.
Like a somnambulist was Manuel Manahan’s wife Connie, barely awake as she moved around her workshop, finally giving up and crawling home to bed, muttering that she felt she was coming down with the flu. For the Manahans, this victory is more poignant than previous defeats. Mrs. Manahan lost a baby (her eleventh child, eighth boy) two months before the elections, was up and campaigning for Manny two weeks after her confinement. “I’ve had disappointments,” she told friends, “but this is the one that hurt most.” Her baby lived only two days; she never even saw it.
Connie Manahan says she felt surer this time her Manny would win but never dreamed he would get the second place in the tabulation: “We had no funds at all for propaganda materials. I saw other candidates spending money right and left and I told Manny, ‘We just can’t compete.’ “All they had were stickers and sample ballots. Six weeks before the polls, friends of Manny put up a billboard for him in Quiapo: it was his biggest single publicity display. But he had learned to speak Tagalog fluently, and that helped.
For Raul and Pacita Manglapus, this triumph is, of course, the Victory of the Voice—of both their voices. Whenever Raul ran out of words, or of breath, wife Pacita stepped forward and sang. Her friends say her singing was as big a hit with voters as her husband’s gift of tongues. Not even sleeplessness could dull his oratorical, her lyrical, magic.
Also sleepless during the tense days before and after the balloting was the grande dame of the Liberal Party, Doña Trining Roxas, who sought bed only when victory was certain. The sleeping dowager was thus unable to attend the first public expression of Liberal triumph: the rites in honor of Elpidio Quirino on November 16, his 71st birthday.
The rites began with mass at the San Marcelino church, where Vicky Quirino Gonzalez found the Old Guard massed around her but nary a sign of the United Opposition. The Macapagals could not come, Manny Pelaez was still in Mindanao, the erstwhile rah-rah boys who had caused Mr. Quirino so much pain were at Comelec or Camp Crame, exultantly counting, or in bed, hungrily sleeping.
Nevertheless, the Old Guard Liberals were in festive mood. After mass, the gay hubbub on the patio seemed a single refrain: “We’re back! We’re back! We’re back!” Sunshine glinted from faces once so current in Malacañang, notably of the ladies who were the Apo’s favorite partners at Palace balls: Nila Syquia Mendoza, Chedeng Araneta, Angela Butte, Carmen Planas. Ever the holy terror, Mameng Planas mockingly distributed cabinet portfolios among the Old Guard: this one was to be finance secretary, that one secretary of foreign affairs. Moving from one merry group to another, causing astonished pauses, like a ghost at a party, was Ambassador Romulo, come to attend this reunion of old friend. His offer to resign before the elections had, say the Liberals been a good omen for them: it had meant Mr. Romulo smelled a change coming.
From the church the Old Guard repaired to the South Cemetery, where the Man of the Hour, Macapagal, laid a wreath on the grave of the Apo. That noon, there was a banquet at a restaurant in Quezon City, and gathered for this happiest hour of the Liberals in a decade were more of the old familiar faces; Vicente Albano Pacis, Johnny Collas, Fred Mangahas. But when a speaker addressed the gathering as “Fellow Liberals,” there were objections: this was a gathering of the Friends of Quirino, not all of whom were Liberals. Unspoken was a parallel thought: that not all of today’s Liberals, especially the very new ones, had been Friends of Quirino.
While yesterday’s Liberals reminisced on the past and the Apo, today’s Liberals were already plotting the future. Slumber had not felled all the victors; still wide awake were Diosdado and Eva Macapagal. Drowsiness showed in her only in narrower eyes, in him only in paler cheeks and a tic in one eye. He said he could go without sleep for a month; she said she had been dozing on and off during the long wait. Whenever she awoke she would ask: “Well, how is it going now?” And her unsleeping husband would cry: “We’re winning!”
For Eva Macapagal, this triumph vindicates feminine intuition. “I am,” she says, “a person of strong presentiments.” She had had a presentiment of victory, had told her husband before the elections: “I think you’re going to win. I feel again as I felt in 1957.”
Macapagal himself had never had any doubts. His campaign to win the presidency was, he says, “methodical and scientific.” There could be only one outcome. In the light of his victory, his campaign, which we all regarded as an aimless wandering from barrio to barrio and a futile shaking of hands, does assume the look of a great design, of carefully planned military strategy. Nothing had been aimless; everything adds up. Each sortie into the wilds had made straighter route to Malacañang. And we now wonder why we failed to see what now seems so clear.
Invisible in the speckled forest because of its spots, the leopard stalks its prey, weaving round and round on velvet paws, in ever narrowing circles. Only when it closes in for the kill is it suddenly beheld in all its might and majesty: this sleek sly creature that blends into the light and dark of the forest, that had seemed to be wandering around in aimless circles.
Macapagal had been invisible to many, a nondescript personality (“negative” was how the NPs loved to describe him), a compulsive hand-shaker, a mousy little man going round and round in circles. Alas for those who could not spot the leopard for its spots! The coloring was protective, the circlings followed a route.
A cry has rent the political jungle.
The leopard has sprung.
The hackneyed thing to say is that Macapagal’s triumph is like Magsaysay’s. Both men undertook a barrio-to-barrio campaign; both toppled an unpopular regime accused of being graft-ridden—but here the resemblance stops.
Magsaysay was expected to win; Macapagal was not.
Nobody was really surprised when the Magsaysay vote began to assume the proportions of an avalanche; the surprise would have been if it didn’t. But the day after this month’s elections, astonishment that Macapagal should be leading at all was so great everybody felt the lead couldn’t last. What one heard on all sides was: “Yes, of course he’s leading, but only on the Manila vote. Just wait till the NP votes start pouring in.” When the lead was maintained the chorus became: “Oh, that’s only the Manila and Luzon vote. Wait till the votes from the South come in.” Finally, when the nationwide trend became unmistakable, those who cautiously conceded that Macapagal might win quickly added that his margin of victory would be slim.
Actually, Macapagal polled a bigger popular vote than Magsaysay.
President Garcia can hardly be blamed for not conceding defeat at once; he, too, just couldn’t believe that Macapagal was winning and, but not conceding, was merely expressing a general astonishment and incredulity. It seems now that everyone who voted for Macapagal did so with no great hope that he would win. Each pro-Macapagal voter must have felt solitary, one in a hundred. So many people who had expressed disgust of the Garcia regime had followed denunciation with despair: “But how can one vote for Macapagal?”
This is in sharp contrast to the atmosphere in 1953, when everyone who voted for Magsaysay felt quite sure that everybody else was doing the same.
The doubts about a Macapagal triumph were indicated by all the pre-election forecasts, even those that had him leading. The pollsters in general detected a trend in his favor but apparently questioned the strength of the trend. Those who gave him the lead carefully stressed that the lead was very small. In fact, the last poll survey to be made public just before the elections, the U.P poll, flatly declared that Garcia and Macapagal were running even, any edge in favor of the latter being so slight as to be “insignificant.”
When the returns started coming in, the public literally couldn’t believe its eyes.
Why was Macapagal, even when given the edge to win, so underrated?
The prime reason is that there was no visible evidence of his popularity, save those reports from the field of the large crowds he was attracting—and we have learned to be cynical about large crowds. And the belief that he was a “colorless” figured seemed to have been proved by his inability, even during the climactic period of the campaign, to arouse fervor where fervor would show. Unlike Magsaysay, he had failed to inflame the imagination or capture the sympathies of those elements of society which create glamour figures.
Into his Great Crusade, Magsaysay had drawn the press, the intelligentsia, the businessmen, the Church, and a lot of people previously indifferent to politics—a motley mass that ranged from college boys and society girls to writers and movie actors, each group forming a movement that helped swell the following, not to mention the finances, of the crusade.
But Macapagal had been unable to make a similar crusade of his campaign. The intelligentsia was actively hostile; the press was cool; the businessmen were wary; the Church was, happily, more mute than during the Magsaysay crusade; and the political dilettantes who had cooed over the Guy found Mac a sad sack. The most influential foreign group in the Philippines, the Americans, had made no bones of being behind Magsaysay; but in this year’s campaign, rumors of American support for the LPs were popularly believed to have been circulated, not by their nationalist rivals, but by the LPs themselves, and that they should feel the need to do so implied American unwillingness to do it for them. One eminent columnist assured his readers that the Americans—the thoughtful ones, that is—would rather have the NPs remain in power. Finally, when that bogey of Philippine politics, the Iglesia ni Kristo, also declared itself against Macapagal, his cause seemed lost indeed.
Yet he took his cause to the common folk and won.
His victory is more impressive than Magsaysay’s, having been achieved against greater odds and without the fancy trimmings of the Great Crusade. Far more than Magsaysay, he can be said to have been carried to triumph by the masses, and only by the masses. And since there were none to glamorize him, since his very foes deny he had any of the Magsaysay charm and magic, since no fringe movements helped swell his finances or the tide of his popularity, he can now claim to have won on sheer skill, intelligence, industry, and the faith in him of he people. He could not become a glamour figure, so he became a folk hero.
And such has been the success of his solitary campaigning that every Philippine politician will, from now on, have to ponder the methods of Macapagal the campaigner.
Poetry got Diosdado Macapagal into politics. Before 1949, his future had seemed to lie in the foreign service. He had risen to the fourth ranking position in the foreign affairs department; President Quirino, obviously grooming the young Pampango for a diplomatic career, sent him to the United States, to broaden his outlook. Macapagal was second secretary of the embassy in Washington.
Then, in 1949, the congressman for Pampanga, Huk-elected Amado Yuson, announced his intention to run for re-election. President Quirino was then engaged in a campaign to topple all Huk-elected officials. But Yuson had a special strength: he was recognized as the poet laureate of Pampanga, a province that loves its bards. Yuson drew crowds not as a politician but as a poet; at his mitings he did not deliver speeches, he improvised verses. Quirino saw it would take a poet to lick a poet.
He had Macapagal recalled from Washington and bade him run against Yuson. The platform was practically who was the better poet. Macapagal had had no experience in politics but did have renown as a bard. In his youth he had composed about a hundred poems, and they had established him as a public figure in his native province, important enough to be invited to address school convocations and crown fiesta queens.
The 1949 campaign in Pampanga turned into a poetic joust. Macapagal trailed his rival from plaza to plaza. Had Yuson delivered a particularly lovely poem in a certain town? The very next night, or a few nights later, Macapagal was in that town, delivering an even lovelier poem. He says he finds it easier to improvise in verse than in prose.
Because he had no campaign funds to use to publicize his candidacy he was forced to adopt a person-to-person approach, to go into every nook and corner of the province to introduce himself to the populace. Thus began, long before the Great Crusade of Magsaysay, the barrio-to-barrio campaign. For Macapagal, such a campaign was inevitable because he felt surest of himself among his own kind.
“Until I ran,” he says, “politicians in Pampanga came from the propertied class. I was the first poor candidate there.”
He not only won against Yuson but topped the congressional winners, which included Magsaysay, in second place. Then came another surprise. It was the custom among Pampango politicians, because they were wealthy, to go off to Baguio or Hong Kong after an election, to rest. But a few days after the 1949 polls, the barrio folk of Pampanga were astounded to find their winning candidate again in their midst. Macapagal had no money for a Baguio or Hong Kong vacation, and he thought that elegant custom silly anyway. Instead, he traveled all over the province again, to thank in person whose who had helped him win. This, cried the Pampangos, was something new in politics.
That first campaign established the style of Macapagal the campaigner; his next major campaign—for the Senate in 1955—disclosed an ability to project himself n a nationwide scale. He was, till then, regarded as a small-time, strictly local politician. Though he regularly made the lists of top congressmen of the year, his name was unknown outside Pampanga. In 1955, he was running with name politicians: Osias, Peralta, Magalona and Geronima Pecson. He was the expendable one on that list, merely followed the others on the regular campaign routes.
Then, in Pototan, Iloilo, came the revelation.
The LPs were waging a futile fight and they themselves knew it: their campaigning was lackadaisical. Macapagal, too, had prepared only one speech, which he used over and over again. One night—that night in Pototan—he finally got so sick of his own clichés he threw the speech away and began to talk as he pleased. It was raining anyway; there were few to listen. He could think aloud, could speak from the heart. He recalled the misery of his childhood, the squalor of his youth. He had almost, though the valedictorian, not attended his grade school graduation because he had no clothes and no shoes to wear. He had almost not gone to high school because there was no money for tuition fees; his mother had raised pigs, his grandmother had worked as a midwife, to send him to high school. All his dreams were one: to end poverty, because he had known how cruel poverty could be. He could not bear the thought of other children going through what he had gone through.
He was practically speaking to himself and was hardly aware that his audience, though the rain was falling harder, had drawn closer around him instead of running to shelter. When he stopped speaking, there was tumultuous applause. Mrs. Pecson stepped forward to speak but could not do so because the crowd kept on applauding and shouting: “Macapagal! Macapagal!” The congressman from Pampanga had to leave his seat and speak to the crowd again.
The following night, in another town, he discarded his prepared speech again and spoke extemporaneously: of his life and hard times, his struggles and dreams. Again he had a rapt audience, again he got tumultuous applause. Macapagal realized he had a larger appeal than he had thought.
This year, when he campaigned in Pototan, he told the people there; “Pototan is not merely a town to me. It is a landmark. For here I discovered I had a message for the nation.”
Macapagal lost in the 1955 senatorial race but topped all the Liberal candidates, though they were better-known than he. His colleagues in the party saw that he was no longer a small-time politico and a stop-Macapagal movement started. The party hierarchy was reorganized and Macapagal was ousted as vice-president for Central Luzon. But it was too late to stop his rise: the public already knew him as “Mr. Liberal.”
After his defeat in the polls, his wife said to him: “It seems your Divine Providence failed you this time. Had you won, you would have been minority floor leader in the Senate and the undisputed leader of the Liberal Party.”
Said Macapagal: “God answers our prayers in his own way. I have faith in his own design in my defeat.”
The design, as he sees it now, was victory in 1961: “Had I won in 1955, my party would have made me run for president in 1957, and I would surely have lost. Garcia had been president only nine months and voters would be inclined to give him a full term to show what he could do. Because I lost in 1955, I was good only for vice-president in 1957, and I had time to prepare to run for president n 1961 and win.”
The vice-presidential nomination was offered to him by a dying man: Speaker Eugenio Perez. Late one night, while the House was discussing the budget, the Speaker, pale and feeble, suddenly appeared in the chamber. Al the solons started up from their seats as if they had seen a ghost, for Perez was supposed to be on his deathbed: the doctors had given him up. Dragging his feet, he shuffled toward Macapagal. “I want to talk to you,” he said.
When they were alone together, Perez said to Macapagal: “The party is putting up Mr. Yulo for president because it has no money, but Mr. Yulo will be attacked. We need someone to run with him whose integrity cannot be questioned. The party has been good to you; not it’s your turn to help the party. If we only had money I would put you up for president. But I tell you: you will be president someday.”
Macapagal says he would have preferred to play it safe and just run for Congress again—but how could he refuse the plea of a dying man?
When he got home that night he woke up his wife to confess that he had made a decision without consulting her: he had agreed to run for vice-president.
“What are your chances?” she asked.
“And what will you do afterwards?”
“I’ll teach and practise law.”
The very next day, he went to the University of Santo Tomas to arrange a teaching contract, so sure was he that his election as vice-president was improbable. But when the NPs put up Laurel junior as their veep candidate and the NCPs selected Tañada, Macapagal began to think that he could win. Laurel junior was manifestly unpopular, and Tañada would divide the Tagalog vote.
But again there was the problem of finances. Macapagal had no money, and neither did the Liberal Party. All the funds came from Yulo and: I don’t think Mr. Yulo ever liked me,” says Macapagal.
Into the picture stepped Amelito Mutuc, an old acquaintance who had married into a wealthy family. Mutuc offered to direct Macapagal’s campaign.
“Can you raise two thousand pesos?” he asked Macapagal.
Macapagal borrowed two thousand from his wife; with the money Mutuc rented a building in Manila, bought a couple of typewriters and set up a Macapagal campaign headquarters.
Says Macapagal: “I had not a centavo for my first campaign. When I ran for the Senate I had about five hundred pesos. And I ran for vice-president on two thousand pesos.”
There were, however, the transportation expenses, which the LP candidates were apparently expected to shoulder themselves. The campaigners had been divided into teams; Macapagal noticed that he was not included in Mr. Yulo’s team. He was told to go to Mindanao and campaign there. But how could he go when he didn’t even have the fare? Instead, he looked up Yulo’s itinerary. He discovered that Yulo was in a certain Visayan town. Macapagal suddenly showed up there, during a rally, and when he spoke he praised Yulo to the skies. Delighted, Yulo told him: “You better come along with my group.”
“And that,” grins Macapagal, “was how I got through the campaigns without any funds. I just joined Mr. Yulo’s party.”
Though Macapagal polled more votes than Garcia, his victory was dismissed as a fluke. The popular view was that he had won on the strength of “negative” votes cast, not really for him, but against Laurel junior.
Macapagal was still “invisible” to many, though he had pulled up quite a feat: had won against the party in power at the height of its power.
President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.
“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”
He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”
At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.
In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”
Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”
At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”
Then Ferdinand Marcos, who had been made to run for the Senate, got cold feet and wanted to withdraw. Marcos felt that Macapagal was courting disaster by deciding that the Liberal Party was to run alone, without any coalition with the Progressives. But Macapagal was willing to stake his political reputation and his presidential chances on that decision. He had more to lose than Marcos but was less apprehensive. He said to Marcos: “You not only will not lose but you will get first place.”
During the counting of the returns, the Progressives who had seemed at first to be winning, all dropped out, but three Liberals remained steady on the winning list, and Marcos did top it. The victory, says Macapagal, was not a random one; he had carefully engineered it. He had pinpointed the areas from where came the votes that had swamped the LPs in previous elections; during the campaign he concentrated on those areas. These were, he says, the “pockets” that had to be pushed back so that his “military line” would hold straight and steady. Having eliminated those “pockets,” Macapagal, after the balloting, sat back and waited confidently for the returns. His fellow Liberals nervously awaited the usual NP avalanche of votes to sweep them away—but Macapagal told them there would be no avalanche, and there was none.
Says Marcos: “That is why we respect Macapagal—because he makes decisions even against our will. Afterwards we find that he was right.”
Macapagal was proved right, too, about the Progressives. When Soc Rodrigo was quoted as saying, after the 1959 polls, that the Grand Alliance would continue, Macapagal said: “If there is one man who has no choice now but to join the Liberals, it is Soc Rodrigo.”
Then he sent Senator Estanislao Fernandez to ask Rodrigo if he was ready now to join the Liberals. Said Rodrigo: “What else can I do?”
“And that,” smiles Macapagal, “was what I had been saying all along.”
Again Macapagal had done the impossible: he had turned a discredited and disheartened LP into a winning party and he had united the opposition. If there be still doubts about his capacity for leadership, he points to the diverse personalities he was able, for this campaign, to bring together and organize into a team: Marcos, Manglapus, Lacson, Manahan, not to mention Roger de la Rosa.
“Each one a strong personality,” he sighs, “and all of them stars!”
What Macapagal did in 1959 he repeated in 1961. He circled the country a third time but concentrated on the new “pockets” revealed by the 1959 polls. The very first province he stormed this year was Batangas, where the LPs had always lost heavily. He campaigned there for a week, then moved on to Quezon, and then, to everybody’s amazement, returned to Batangas and campaigned through it all over again. The Batangueños said to him: “You are the first presidential candidate to campaign here twice.” The politicos predicted a Macapagal loss in Batangas, but he carried the province.
He went wherever the LP was weak, however remote the region. Everybody thought him crazy to go to the Davao town of Manay, which is a Nacionalista stronghold and almost inaccessible. Boats dock far off; passengers must plunge into neck-deep water and wade ashore, for small boats would be dashed by the strong waves against the rocks. On reaching the shore, the Manay-bound must still climb a steep rocky slope to reach the town. Though it was past midnight when his ship reached the place, Macapagal plunged into the water, waded ashore through the darkness, climbed up over the rocks, and found the townspeople of Manay still waiting for him. The mayor told him: “This is a Nacionalista town, but because you came here you will win here.”
The intrepidity Macapagal displayed during the campaign may well turn into legend. He crossed, on a frail fishing boat, that point of the San Bernardino Strait which folk in the vicinity regard with horror, because four currents converging there create a maelstrom. The crossing was pure agony; Macapagal got across without being sucked into the maelstrom—“but,” he shudders, “I don’t think I could do it again.”
Batanes had become an obsession with him ever since his scheduled trip there, in 1957, had to be cancelled with the Ifugao was forbidden him. Three subsequent attempts to sail to Batanes were thwarted by bad weather. Then, late in the last month of the campaign, he decided he just had to get there. He hired a fishing boat and set off. Halfway across, he noticed that the boat was slapping against the water: “That’s when it’s dangerous—not when a boat is rocking but when it’s slapping.” He said to the skipper of the boat: “Puede ba? If it’s possible, let’s go on. If not, let’s return.” Said the skipper: “We had better return.”
But there was no stopping Macapagal now. He wired his wife in Manila that he needed two planes. “To think that it was I who arranged that trip!” she wails now. Macapagal finally reached Batanes by plane, but the return trip was made with one engine dead.
Why had he risked his life to reach a place that had but a handful of voters? He says? “I wanted to show that it was not the votes that mattered to me. Besides, I had covered the entire country except Batanes. And when you say except, you remove the impact.”
The Sunday before the polls, Macapagal addressed the LP miting de avance on Plaza Miranda. He had not campaigned at all in Manila but the multitude he drew was epochal. “I felt,” he says, “that the people there had already made up their minds. They had not come to be convinced but just to be there.” Manny Pelaez nudged Mrs. Macapagal and whispered: “Just watch. The crowd will applaud your husband whatever he says.” “And,” says Mrs. Macapagal, “it was true. The people applauded even in the middle of a word!”
On the eve of the elections, Macapagal conducted a “talkaton” that lasted all night, answering questions from all quarters, demonstrating, for all to see, how quickly his mind worked. The invisible man was finally emerging as quite a dynamic chap. It was dawn when he went home, but not to sleep. He and Mrs. Macapagal immediately motored to his home town of Lubao, to vote. When they got there, at seven in the morning, the streets were already full of people impatient to vote.
The Pampangos had a cardinal, now they wanted a president.
That night, the poll returns began to paint an astounding new image of Macapagal. The man described as “colorless” had turned out to be a phenomenon.
Luck is still on his side. He is fortunate to become president when people are just beginning to see him clearly. Magsaysay became an idol too soon; adulation reached a peak during his campaign: there was nowhere else to go but down. So much was expected of the Guy he could not but disappoint. Barely two years after he assumed office there was already a marked chill in the air.
But Macapagal assumes office amid general incredulity rather than expectation, amid a growing curiosity rather than love. Because he was so underrated, anything he does now will have the quality of surprise. Because nothing was expected of him, he cannot disappoint. The way for him is still up. He is not yet entangled in a myth of himself; idolatry has still to becloud his eyes with incense. He should be able to accomplish more, since he has to earn the people’s love rather than justify it.
He comes to us practically unknown: an ambiguous figure, half light and half dark, moving toward the presidency and wresting it away with a few arms, though the dragons of power and propaganda stood round about.
Of his feat he says: “It was difficult, it was impossible, but we did it. Now, the job ahead is even more difficult, ten times more difficult. But I am read for it.”
The death of The Guy
by Quijano de Manila
His Death Was Not His End But A Transfiguration –From Folk Hero To Folk Myth.
March 18, 1961–HE HAD skipped a friend’s party the night before to attend a sudden conference; and coming home from the party, to which she had gone ahead, alone, Mrs. Magsaysay found him in his bedroom looking so tired and worried she didn’t press her inquiries as to why he hadn’t followed.
But when he woke up the next morning he was his old self again, jaunty and jovial. They had breakfast together, and talked of the trip he would make to Cebu that day. He was leaving at noon. She urged him to rest all morning. When she looked for him later, he had vanished. He was nowhere in the Palace. She called up this place and that and finally located him in a house within the Palace compound. He had been visiting his in-laws, the Corpuses.
She reproved him when he came back: “I thought you promised to rest all morning?”
He said he had been rehearsing his speeches for the Cebu visit and couldn’t do so in the Palace, with people popping in and out all the time.
She watched while he had a haircut in a hall off his bedroom. Standing behind him, she could see his face in the mirror, his eyes restless as a little boy’s over this enforced moment of stillness.
“Will you see me off at the airport?” he suddenly asked, meeting her eyes in the mirror.
“If you want me to.”
“Yes, do come.”
She was rather amused at the request. A despedida for an overnight trip? In the bedroom, the two valets who were to perish with him were busy packing. He kept telling the barber to hurry up. She always paid the barber for him, had a ten-peso bill ready in a pocket.
They had lunch with a young nephew. The children were in school or in their rooms. Teresita, the eldest, just engaged, was sewing her trousseau. Jun, the the only son was at his classes. Mila, the younger daughter, had a stove in her room and liked to cook meals for her gang. Whenever she prepared a special dish, she sent a portion to the presidential table with instructions that her father was to sample the dish and give his comments on it. He always sent back word that it was delicious, whether he had found it too tough or too salty.
The family got together only on Sundays, when it was the rule that the children were to come to table for breakfast, lunch, and supper. In the evening, they gathered in his room, just the five of them. Teresita gave him a neck massage. Mila strummed a uke. Jun played the hi-fi, putting on his father’s favorite records. His father and mother had a special favorite that summer: Que Será, Será —the song to which they had danced on their last wedding anniversary. Only afterwards would she realize the significance of that song’s gaily grim lyrics. The children complained that Sunday was the only time they could have their Daddy to themselves.
So, on this March day, a Saturday, his last day in the Palace, he did not have his children with him as he lunched with his wife, his last meal with her. He told her about the movies he had ordered for showing at the Palace that night: a Tagalog picture and a Hollywood drama for her, an action movie for himself. He always asked for one, whether he was there to see it or not. He loved action pictures and before he became president, dragged his wife to small neighborhood cinemas where the audience was as rowdy as the folk on the screen and where he could stomp and shout unashamed during chases and fist fights.
“Three movies for tonight,” he told his wife now, “but don’t sit through all of them. You may be cross-eyed when I come back.”
She smiled drowsily. She had been feeling drowsy all through lunch, could hardly keep her head up, her eyes open.
He finally laughed at her: “No, you better not see me off at the airport. You’re sleepy. Go take a nap.”
But she accompanied him down the stairs to the car, her arm around his waist. She told him his waist was slimmer.
He patted his belly proudly: “Yes, no more paunch. I must keep it this way.” When they reached the car he said: “If you’re asleep when I arrive, I’ll wake you up.”
“Even if you didn’t,” she cried very sarcastically, “I would wake up!”
He had never learned to move quietly, on tiptoe, with stealth. She always knew when he was in: the floor seemed to shake with his movements. He was, she says, “pagpag,” very heavy-footed. He didn’t walk, he strode. He didn’t open a door, he burst it open. He didn’t enter a room, he stormed into it.
He laughed now at her sarcasm, kissed her and got into the car. It was about half-past noon. That was the last time she ever saw him. He was wearing slacks, one of his gaudy polo shirts and a jacket; and his brown face, after some three years of the presidency, looked almost as lean as the face of that very thin, very tall mechanic she had fallen in love with some 25 years before.
After he had gone, she had her nap. Then she drove to Tagaytay with a group of friends and spent the afternoon in a cottage on a hilltop. In the group was Chiming Hernández, whose husband, Gregorio Hernández, the education secretary, had also gone on that trip to Cebu. Mrs. Magsaysay noticed that her friend Chiming was moody, almost melancholy. She sat at a window, chin propped on hands, watching the sunset on Manila Bay.
“The sun is so red,” she kept saying. “Why is the sun so red?”
Mrs. Magsaysay said the sun didn’t look unusually red to her. Driving back to the city in the evening, she saw the skies radiant with moonlight and fleetingly thought it would be a safe night for flying.
After supper, she sat down for the picture show but did not, as her husband had advised, sit through all the movies. Before retiring, she took a spoonful of a tranquilizing liquid. Nevertheless, she could not fall asleep at once. Annoyed, she rose and, this time without bothering to use the spoon, gulped down the tranquilizer from the bottle. “Now,” she thought, “I should be able to go to sleep.” But her slumber that night was troubled, though she had not been worrying about her husband’s safety.
In the South
He had arrived at the airport at around one in the afternoon, had changed into gray trousers and a pastel blue barong before boarding the Mount Pinatubo. At two minutes past one, his plane took off for the South. There were 27 persons aboard and he had to sit on a bunk. When his guests complained of the heat in the plane, he said he had had the air-conditioning removed from the presidential plane to avoid public criticism. “We’ll all just have to sweat it out,” he said. He added that he had named the plane after the highest peak in Zambales, where he had operated as a guerrilla during the war.
At a quarter past tree, the plane landed in Cebu City and, to the roar of guns and of a multitude burned black by the March sun, he descended and began the ten-hour tour of Cebu City that was to be his last public appearance.
His first words to the Cebuanos were about corn, for the South was then suffering from a shortage of its staple cereal. He promised them that 20,000 tons of corn were arriving from America to relieve the shortage.
Then he drove through packed streets decored with festive arches to the house of the elder Osmeña, to salute the former president and his wife. From the Osmeñas’ he went to the archbishop’s palace. After a chat with Archbishop Julio Rosales, he prayed in the chapel. The pictures taken of him there show him looking strangely pensive, though the strangeness may only be because we are so used to seeing him in action. People with him noted that he tarried, on his knees, in the chapel long after the others had risen and that there was an odd look of peace, of relief in his face when he emerged –as of “a man who had moved from darkness into light.”
At five that afternoon, he was at the University of the Visayas, to be made an honorary doctor of laws. It was dusk when the ceremonies started. Suddenly the lights went out and stayed out for a quarter of an hour. He stood in the darkness, on the platform, and no one came to lead him away. Afterwards the superstitious would say that they had felt it as ominous: that sudden darkness at a moment of glory.
Then he went to another school, the University of Southern Philippines, to speak on parental love and against neutralism. He still looked fresh but his baro had wilted and he hurried to the residence of a labor leader to change into a suit with tie and to eat supper. He was delighted with the menu: vegetables and dried fish, and his host gave him a pabaon: a package of the dried fish he had enjoyed so much. The dried fish would later be found scattered over the wreckage of his plane.
At eight that night, he was at the University of San Carlos, where he had the biggest audience of all during his Cebu City speaking tour. About two hours later, he was at the house of Governor Manuel Cuenco, for a brief chat. Then he proceeded to the residence of Serging Osmeña, then mayor of the city, with whom he was to have dinner, the last one of his life. As he sat down to eat, someone noted that there were 13 at the table.
He still had two engagements: at the Patria Recreation Hall, which was being inaugurated, and at the Club Filipino, which was holding a veterans forum. It was past midnight when, escorted by the two Osmeñas, he returned to the airport to take the plane back to Manila. He declined their invitations to stay the night in the city; he said he had an important conference in Malacañang in the morning.
As the list of passengers was read out, it was noted that he was No. 13. He grinned, shrugged his shoulders, said goodbye to the Osmeñas and boarded the plane. At about a quarter past one, Sunday, March 17, the Mount Pinatubo took off for Manila carrying aloft 26 very tired and sleepy people, only one of whom would reach the city alive. Ahead, just ten minutes away, a dark bulk in the moonlight, soared one of the most tragic mountains in Philippine history: Mount Manúnggal.
Manúnggal is a mountain range curving like an arm just north of Cebu City. It’s such an obscure mountain, Cebuanos themselves say they had never heard of it until the accident put its name on the front pages. Its peak rises about 3,000 feet above sea level. The lower slopes have been deforested by kaingins; the upper slopes are steep, ending not on sharp peaks but on rough plateaus. From the center of the range springs a river, the Balamban, which winds all around the mountain and its base and then flowds through the western part of Cebu island into the sea.
Ten minutes after it left Cebu, the Mount Pinatubo confronted Mount Manúnggal and was flying toward the central plateau of the range, which is the source of the Balamban. The plane had lost altitude –from “metal fatigue,” according to investigation– but could have cleared the mountain and flown safely beyond it but for a giant tree standing on the summit.
The tree, an ibalos, is about fifty feet tall. The plane must have been flying about 45 feet above the summit, high enough to clear the mountain range –if that ibalos tree had not been standing right in its path. And it was against that tree, not the mountain, the the Mount Pinatubo crashed.
As plane and tree collided, the passengers inside were hurled against or out of their seats and the tree sliced off one of the plane’s wings. This wing was found near the foot of the tree. The crippled plane itself dropped much further down, about a hundred feet down the slope, which explains survivor Nestor Mata’s sensation of “hurtling down a black bottomless pit.” When the plane hit the ground, it exploded and burst into flames.
The fire –so intense it melted metal and fused bodies into an almost solid lump of coal– raged most fiercely nearest the fuselage but spared the tail and cockpit. The passengers seated nearest the fuselage –there were apparently seven of them, including the President– were burned beyond recognition, were turned into a single mass of charred flesh. The President was identified only by a wristwatch and ring embedded in the black mass.
About 14 other bodies, also horribly burned, were thrown out of the plane by the explosion and scattered lower down the hill. A few feet away was another group of bodies that had been only partially burned.
Two of the pilots, General Benito Ebuen and Major Florencio Pobre, were apparently hurled forward, still strapped to their seats, against the engines. The first had his skull broken; the second had his head ripped off. A security officer, Major Felipe Nunag, seems to have survived the crash, though wounded in the head, and to have crawled out of the wreckage and some distance down the slope, quite a trip for a man who was dying and must have known it. His was one of the few bodies found intact.
The only survivor, reporter Nestor Mata of the Herald, may owe his luck to the fact that he was thrown out of the plane at the very instant it hit the ground. He had been dozing, was jolted awake by a flash –“like thousands of flashbulbs popping at one time” –felt himself flying, and heard the deafening boom of an explosion. He blacked out. When he came to, he found himself lying under tall trees, among twisted bits of metal. He smelled burning flesh and saw in the distance the awful conflagration and the bodies strewn around it. But it may have been his own flesh he smelled, for he had been burned from head to foot.
Several people dwelling on the mountain looked up that night and saw its peak ablaze: a splash of red in the white moonlight. Some had heard an explosion. But the hero of the rescue operation, Marcelino Nuya, who lives near the peak, only some 800 feet from the crash site, neither heard the explosion nor saw the mountain top on fire that night. All he had noticed was that the droning of a plane overhead late that night had suddenly stopped.
Marcelino Nuya, in his early 40s at the time of the disaster, was born in the lowland town of Compostela but has lived most of his life on the heights of Manúnggal. He was then the teniente of the mountain’s topmost barrio, though barrio is hardly the word for settlements of bamboo and cogon huts separated from one another by long lonely stretches of hillside, only patches of which are cultivated. Nuya’s house is more substantial than the others; its roof is of cogon but it has wooden walls and flooring. The house is 2,000 feet above sea level and beside it is a mountain spring that yields cold water.
Nuya is short and stocky and, though unschooled, has the courtesy and percipience of people who live close to nature and have studied it. That March night, he and his wife had sat up waiting for their eldest daughter, who had gone to a barrio dance. Up in the mountains, too, young people go dancing on Saturday night. When the daughter arrived, she had friends with her and they sat around a while longer chatting. It was long past midnight before Nuya and his wide got to bed. Before they fell asleep, they heard a plane roaring directly overhead. It sounded very close, as though it were flying very low. Suddenly the roaring stopped. In the stillness, Nuya and his wife wondered what had happened. “Maybe it fell,” she said. He listened but heard no crash, no explosion. So he went to sleep.
He was aroused from sleep early the next morning by a neighbor crying that the mountain top was on fire. Nuya went out to look and saw that the blaze was not a kaingin. He decided to climb at once to the peak. With him were his two sons and the neighbor. They were followed by Nuya’s white dog, whom he called Serging, after the mayor of Cebu City. The press would later discreetly change the name of the dog to Avante. It was the dog’s barking that lifted Nestor Mata from despair, giving him the strength to push himself up from the ground, lean against a tree and cry out, “Tao! Tao!”
The dog ran toward the voice, followed by Nuya and his companions, who had to hack their way through the thick foliage and the undergrowth. On an old clearing now covered with cogon, huddled against a tree, they saw something that looked hardly human, hardly alive. It was black and bloated from head to foot, with monstrous ears and denuded skull and wounds that reeked of the grave’s corruption. As they stared in horror, it limply lifted one black arm and gestured toward the burning plane and from its black mouth came sounds that seemed to them gibberish. Mata was talking in English and Tagalog, strange tongues to these mountain folk.
Yet they understood when he cried: “Help me, I’m in pain!”
Nuya spoke to the neighbor and the neighbor lifted the burned man and heaved him over his shoulder. The swollen flesh crushed like fruit and foul juices streamed out.
“Put me down! Put me down, please!” screamed the agonized Mata.
All that day they carried him down the mountain, on a hammock, to a village where passed the buses for Cebu City. In the village were newsmen who knew Mata well, but when they saw the heap of carrion in the hammock they could only gape aghast and ask, “Who are you?”
Late that night, the lone survivor reached Cebu City and the nation at last knew what had happened to the plane that left Cebu at past one that morning and seemed to have completely disappeared in the skies.
The Long Wait
Mrs. Magsaysay had risen early that morning, to prepare for mass. As she combed her hair at her dresser, she glanced at the newspaper that had been slipped under her door. On the front page she could see a large picture of her husband with garlands of flowers around his neck. She thought happily that he had had a nice welcome in Cebu and she said to herself: “The Osmeñas persuaded him to stay the night.”
She went down to the chapel with her children. During the mass, she noticed that someone had approached one of the Palace aides and was whispering in his ear. The aide rose and left the chapel. When he showed up again, she was having breakfast with the children. He said there were people who wanted to see her: the Pelaezes, the Manahans, the Manglapuses. When they were shown in they all looked so solemn she at once felt sure they were going to ask a very big favor.
“Have you people heard mass already?” She asked. “Have you had breakfast?”
She ordered more coffee for the visitors. Manny Pelaez sat down beside her and thoughtfully stirred his coffee.
“Well, what was it you wanted to see me about?” she prompted.
“It’s so hard to say,” he said.
“Nothing’s hard if you try,” she laughed. “Say it –and I’ll let Monching know.”
At last he got it out: “The President’s plane was due back at half-past three. It’s long overdue.”
Her eyes flew to the clock on the wall; it was almost nine.
“So he did leave Cebu City last night?”
“Yes, at about one.”
“Maybe he stopped off somewhere.”
“Maybe. There’s really no cause for alarm yet.”
She saw her children silently rising from the table and going off to their rooms. Raul Manglapus approached her. “Let’s go and pray,” he said. Suddenly she began to weep but allowed herself to be led to an altar in another room. But she could not concentrate. She looked around and said, “This is not my room. I want to be in my own room.”
During the next four days she would not eat or drink anything and would lose four pounds. There was a cruel rumor that afternoon that the plane had been found, that the President was safe, and she would emerge from her room looking hysterical with joy. But that night the grim news arrived from Cebu: Nestor Mata had said the plane had crashed and that, as far as he knew, there were no other survivors. By then, a great crowd had collected on the Palace grounds and the cry went up: “We want the First Lady.” Mrs. Magsaysay was told she would have to make an appearance, to instil hope in a populace that still refused to believe her husband was dead. She went out to them and told them that she, too, like them, was still waiting for him.
And many, though four years have passed, are still waiting for him. Even as the news of his death was being flashed to the nation, the word was already going around that the Guy was not dead, that he was merely hiding himself for a while, but would eventually come down from the mountain to lead his people anew. The holocaust on the mountain top was bound to kindle the popular imagination, for mountains and folk leaders are closely associated in folklore. One thinks of Moses vanishing into the smoke and fire of Sinai until his people believed him dead; of Elias disappearing from Mount Carmel on a chariot of fire; of Bernardo Carpio, whom an earlier generation of Filipinos believed to be hiding on a mountain, too, from where, in the fullness of time, he would descend to led the people out of bondage. Today, four years after he died, the Magsaysay legend has attained the stature of myth and may in time become for us Filipinos what the Lincoln myth is for Americans.
In spite of the news from Cebu, Mrs. Magsaysay and her children stubbornly clung to the hope that rescuers sent to the crash site would find survivors, the President among them. That night, Jun Magsaysay kept vigil at his mother’s bedside. She had been given one injection after another to put her to sleep until she rebelled and cried out: “I don’t want to be put to sleep! I want to be conscious! I want to know!” And, anyway, the injections eventually had no effect. They could jab her arm till it bled; no kind sleep blacked out her grief.
So she lay sleepless that night and heard her son walking back and forth, back and forth, crackling his knuckles and moaning, “Daddy, Daddy — what happened to you? What happened to you?” She called to him and bade him lie down at her side. “No, I can’t sleep,” he said. “Just lie down,” she told him, “and rest.” But the boy refused to lie down, continued to pace the floor, crackling his knuckles and groaning.
Of his sisters, the younger one, Mila, had collapsed and was being kept in bed by her friends. The elder sister, Teresita, had gathered all her young relatives and the household help in the chapel and had been leading them in prayer all day and night.
Hope died out the next day when a younger brother of the President was flown to the crash site and identified the remains. A report was wired to the Palace and Jun Magsaysay was delegated to break the news to his mother. The moment he entered the room, biting his lips and pale with shock, she knew what he was going to say.
Before he had finished speaking, she flung her hands to her head and uttered a scream that rang through the Palace and froze the blood of all who heard it.
“Monchi-i-ing!” she cried –and fell backward as her son ran to catch her.
Her daughters were summoned to her room. Mila rose from bed but had to be carried back to it before she reached her mother’s room. Teresita, an image of fortitude, came up from the chapel, rosary in hand, dark glasses shrouding her eyes. She strode into her mother’s room and closed the door behind her. When the two of them were alone together and she had been told that her father’s body had been found, she unclenched her hand before her mother’s eyes. The girl had been gripping the rosary so hard she had crushed the beads.
Suddenly her face twisted. “I have lost faith in God!” she cried, hurling the rosary at a mirror. The mirror broke. Shocked, Mrs. Magsaysay ran toward her trembling daughter, but the girl broke away from her mother’s arms and fled to her room.
Mrs. Magsaysay forgot her grief. She went out of her room to seek out a cousin of hers, a Jesuit priest, whom she sent to her daughter. When the priest returned, he told Mrs. Magsaysay there was nothing to worry about. Teresita was merely suffering from shock and was already aghast at what she had done. “The girl,” said the priest, “was expecting a miracle.”
The remains arrived and were at the Palace for three days, but the widow and her children were never alone, even for a moment, with their dead. Day and night, lying in her bed, Mrs. Magsaysay heard the tramping of feet and felt the old house shaking as the masses stampeded up the stairs to bid farewell to their Guy. “Abah, we may crash,” she thought as the Palace swayed with the weight of the people.
She could not weep anymore. “I found out then,” she says, “that you can run out of tears too.” But not to be able to weep can be more terrible than weeping. The unshed tears hurt like stones under one’s eyelids.
During the funeral, all he could think of was that it was most uncomfortable, on such a hot day, to be wedged between two people. She was in the presidential car, seated between President and Mrs. Garcia. “Why can’t I be with my own family?” she asked herself peevishly, and herself answered the question: “Protocol! Protocol!” Then she wondered why she couldn’t be sitting in front beside the driver, instead of that aide. “It would be so much cooler there,” she thought, and idly noticed that the aide’s hair needed cutting. She glanced sideways at President Garcia sitting so still and stolid. She glanced at Inday Garcia quietly eating boiled eggs. She looked out the window at people running between cars, hurrying after the bier. “Won’t they get run over?” she wondered. Finally she concentrated on her husband’s horse, marching with such dignity just before their car, the empty saddle and boots on its back. On that hot crowded day, that horse alone looked cool and poised and whole. “It died a year later,” says Mrs. Magsaysay, “People wanted me to sell it but I said no. Then it fell sick. We had it operated on but it was no use. It died.”
At the graveyard, as the cannon boomed and the bugle sounded taps and the hot sun beat down on the multitude, what had felt like stones under her eyelids loosened at last and tears mercifully came streaming again from her eyes.
Mrs. Magsaysay says she used to dream a lot about her husband: “But since we moved to this new house of ours, I have dreamed of him only three or four times. The dreams are rather odd. He is wearing his old polo shirts. But he is never talking to me; he is always talking to somebody else, just like when he was alive.”
About ten months after the disaster, two groups of priests climbed Mount Manúnggal to the site of the crash. They found the plane’s wreckage still there and said mass on the spot. For congregation, they had the mountain folk, who live so far from church many of them had never heard mass until that day. On the spot where the body of the Guy was found somebody had placed a makeshift marker: a round piece of paper framed in bamboo. There had been an inscription on the paper but it was illegible when the priests got there.
On the site of the crash now stands a rough-hewn chapel which the mountain folk also use as an assembly hall.
by Quijano de Manila
A current controversy is whether Manila’s old circumferential road should be renamed after Recto.
March 4, 1961—MANILA’S present city fathers should go down in its history as the most patriotic bunch of baptists ever to nurse a signpost. In the last year or so, they have subjected half a dozen streets with colonial names to a nationalistic rechristening. Trabajo became Manuel de la Fuente; Tuberías became Dra. Concepción A. Aguila; Morayta became Nicanor Reyes Sr., and Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.
These changes drew only a disheartened protest from a citizenry inured to the shock of going to sleep on one street and waking up on another. But there was spirited resistance when Sta. Mesa Boulevard was turned into Ramón Magsaysay Boulevard and dear old Aviles, the street of Malacañang, became Dr. José P. Laurel Sr. Street.
Now, still another name-change that, in other circumstances, would have been welcomed as proper and fitting has met with opposition, chiefly because it comes as the last straw to a public exasperated by so much name-changing.
An ordinance renaming Calle Azcárraga after the late Claro M. Recto was twice passed by the municipal board, was twice vetoed by Mayor Lacson, is at this writing in the hands of President Garcia, who must decide which is the truer nationalist; the Manila municipal board, because it wants to replace the name of a Spanish premier with that of a Filipino patriot, or Mayor Lacson, because he wants to preserve one of the most famous place-names in the country.
One view is that nobody cares who the hell Azcárraga was; when Manileños say Azcárraga they don’t mean the street—and they don’t want the names of such important streets as Azcárraga, Sta. Mesa and Aviles to be tampered with. Indeed, even the names of unimportant streets, if they are old enough, should be respected, since many of these old place-names which seem merely capricious turn out to have, apart from the associations they have accumulated through the years, an original pertinence—like, for instance, the now-vanished Alejandro VI, named after the Borgia pope who fathered Cesar and Lucretia. Many have wondered why this evil man was honored with a street in Sampaloc. The fact is, Alexander Borgia had a very decisive finger in our fate; he authored the demarcation line which divide the new worlds beyond the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain—the demarcation line which, by a hair’s breadth (some say not even by that), included the Philippines in the Spanish sphere and thus decreed that our colonial history should be Spanish, not Portuguese. Borgia is no name to delight a nationalist, but it’s a pity the name has vanished from the landscape. The more gaudy-minded among us feel that it lent to that dingy alley in Sampaloc a touch of the color, the glamour of the Italian Renaissance, possibly prompting people, whenever they passed that alley, to realize that the history of this land goes far beyond the horizons that confine it and involves any number of unlikely people, from Renaissance popes to Elizabethan pirates. Anyway, a bit of racy atmosphere vanished from the city when Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.
In this matter, the various conquerors of the land, with the exception of the Japs, have shown more piety than we do. The Spaniards kept the name of Soliman’s town and maintained the place-names around it: Tondo, Binondo, Pasig, Pasay. They gave Spanish names only to the new communities they founded and to the new streets they laid out. (We, on the other hand, have been vandal enough to obliterate such an old historic Malay place-name as Bangkusay.) The Americans, too, respected the place-names they found here and gave American names only to new sites: Dewey to a boulevard wrested from the sea; Lawton to a plaza formed by the opening of the Sta. Cruz Bridge; California, Colorado, Kansas, etc., to streets built in what was once the swampy interior of Malate.
The argument is that Filipinos are at last in possession of their land and should wipe out the vestiges of a painful colonial past. But Manila has been a Malay city, a Spanish city, an American city, and is now a Filipino city. It could be a Spanish city without any pulling out of its Malay roots, and an American city without any burying of its Malay or Spanish past; so why should its present keepers be so anxious to hide what this tough old town has been? A people as old as the Romans or the English may be able to afford to skip a few hundred years of history, abolish a few hundred monuments, in the name of progress; but a people as young as we have surely need of every bit of memory that can make us feel more intensely us.
If the Manileño seems, of all Filipinos, the most developed, it is because he is informed by a city soaked and drenched in history, a city where every spot of ground is encrusted with memories, where every place-name has emotional value, and where people consequently feel and think and live more intensely than anywhere else in the country. When a Manileño speaks, he speaks—whether he knows it or not—with all his past behind him, which is why his voice rings with such authority and pride. He is no cultural parvenu—or was not, anyway, in the days when every sign post, every street, every annual public ritual assured him of the antiquity of the traditions to which he was heir. The rest of the country may be willing to shed the dark past and start clean, but the Manileño is a creation of the baroque and should not be content with anything less than the totality of his city’s experience—Malay, Spanish, American, and whatever else there may be, including the latest invaders.
Alas, Manileños who have conveniently been blaming every postwar desecration of their city on the “outsiders” who have captured and are now running it may be dismayed to learn that the latest renovation—the proposal to rename Azcárraga after Recto—was authored by one of their own, by an authentic Manileño: Councilor Pablo V. Ocampo, who belongs to the Ocampos of Quiapo, a very distinguished Manila clan. In this ironic instance, it’s an “outsider,” Lacson of Negros, who is defending, against a true son of Manila, the heritage of the city.
Councilor Ocampo is a chubby young man who seems to be always abrim with mirth and energy. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the first resident commissioner to Washington and the first Filipino to demand independence for the Philippines in the halls of the American congress. The Ocampo house on R. Hidalgo is one of the oldest and largest on that street, where once dwelt Quiapo’s most splendid families: the Paternos, the Legardas and the Aranetas. An uncle of the councilor built that fantastic Japanese palace in an alley off R. Hidalgo.
Though the councilor’s roots are in Quiapo, he himself was born and grew up in the more modern district of Malate and he knew R. Hidalgo only during the 1930s, when its days of glory were over and it was already turning into a shabby semi-commercial street. Viewed from the sleek newness of Malate, all that old part of Quiapo, from Azcárraga to Arlegui, must have seemed indeed little more than a dump of dusty relics that should be cleared away. But it should be said that Councilor Ocampo is not always for abolishing the old; he has proposed that the pantheon in Paco be made a national cemetery, so it may be saved from ruin.
It was in October 3 last year, a few days after the death of Senator Recto, that Councilor Ocampo first proposed to the municipal board that Calle Azcárraga be renamed after Recto, “as an insignificant memorial to perpetrate [sic] the name and memory of this great man.”
The proposal was referred to the Philippine Historical Committee, which not only approved it but suggested that all Azcárraga plus Mendiola be turned into a single thoroughfare called Recto Boulevard. The name-change was also recommended by the Knights of Rizal, the national directorate of the Spirit of 1896 and the Palihan ng Bayan.
The Ocampo ordinance was passed by the board on January 17, was vetoed by Mayor Lacson nine days later.
Said Lacson: “We can give honor to Don Claro without obliterating important symbolic landmarks. General Azcárraga could probably be associated with many unpleasant things that happened during the Spanish regime. But the street named after him has already become deeply embedded in the history and culture of the city of Manila and has achieved such meaning that, if it is dropped and traded for another, the city may lose a landmark together with its historical associations.”
The mayor quoted the protest of the Manila Realty Board.
Said the realtors: “Whenever the name of a street is changed, property owners are confused, since they find their land suddenly situated on a street they never heard of. The Cadastral Plans are fast being outdated and confused by so many changes.” The realtors drily added that “we believe the purpose in naming streets is to help people find their way around.” And they suggested that the proposed new bridge at Nagtahan, instead of Azcárraga, be renamed after Recto. The mayor himself favored some streets like Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas.
To this, Councilor Alfredo Gómez retorted that to rename “an insignificant street to perpetrate [sic, again] the memory of a truly great Filipino patriot and nationalist may be considered an insult.” And he reproved the Manila Realty Board with a baffling non-sequitur: “Our is a changing world, so that we have continually to march forward with the progress of time. To subscribe to the contention of the Manila Realty Board that the frequent changes in the names of street lead to confusion is certainly not in keeping with the trend of progress.”
The Manila Times had come out with an editorial against the change, on the ground that historical traditions should be preserved and that Calle Azcárraga, an unsightly, traffic-jammed, commercial street, was hardly the proper one to bear the name of so august a statesman as Recto.
To this, historian Domingo Abella replied with two questions. What street in Manila has no tangled traffic? And what tradition could be invoked in the name of a street that had borne that name for only about 50 years? Dr. Abella warned that the defeat of the Ocampo ordinance would mean “victory for a certain element in our community which still maintains that the days of Spain in the Philippines were the ideal ones in our history, and which feels deeply nostalgic about that era.”
Stung, Lacson called Dr. Abella’s logic “a little shaky.” Following Dr. Abella’s reasoning, we would have to obliterate all things Spanish in the Philippines because they constitute a symbol of our servitude under the Spaniards. “This would be tragic,” said Lacson, “because even Dr. Abella’s name, Domingo, is Spanish.”
But Dr. Gumersindo García of the Knights of Rizal pointed out two special reasons why the name of Azcárraga should not be preserved by Filipinos: as Spanish minister of war in the 1890s, Azcárraga had sent reinforcements to the Philippines to suppress the Revolution, and he had ignored a petition of clemency that could have averted the execution of Rizal.
Lacson replied that Mexico City has preserved a colonial-era monument to Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the rape and pillage of Mexico: “And yet no one can accuse the Mexicans of being less patriotic or less conscious of their national dignity than we Filipinos.”
Cries Lacson: “They’re calling me colonial-minded now! This country is suffering from ultra-nationalism. And yet, down in Mactan, there’s a magnificent monument to Magellan, only a shabby marker for Lapu-Lapu. Why don’t the nationalists do something about that? And all this name-changing! They changed the names of Trabajo and Morayta—and that’s illegal. Those streets were donated to the city by the Sulucan Subdivision with the stipulation that the names were not to be changed.”
While the controversy raged, the mayor happened to run into the author of the disputed ordinance. Councilor Ocampo asked what Lacson had against the ordinance. The mayor reiterated his wish to preserve the city’s historic landmarks. Ocampo replied that his ordinance had the approval of the nation’s leading historical societies, which, after all, should know better than the mayor what landmarks should be preserved. Then he told the mayor that the municipal board was going to override his veto and re-pass the ordinance. “That is your right,” said Lacson, “but my stand on the matter has not changed.”
On February 7, the board, declaring that public opinion pointed to “an overwhelming endorsement of the proposal,” reenacted the ordinance, with two-thirds of the councilors voting in its favor. Mayor Lacson vetoed it again and sent it back to the board the very next day, February 8, the 70th birthday of Don Claro.
“It’s now up to President García,” says Councilor Ocampo, “to uphold the autonomy of the municipal board of Manila.” He says he expects the President to sign it and does not doubt that the citizens of Manila are as keen over the measure as he is: “Oh, there will be confusion at first, yes, but the young will quickly get used to the new name.”
Far from being daunted by Mayor Lacson’s vetos, Manila’s city fathers seem to have been goaded to fresh feats of rechristening, becoming, indeed, even more avid to perpetrate, not to perpetuate. Right after the first veto, Councilor Herminio Astorga proposed that Dewey Boulevard be renamed Rizal Boulevard and that Rizal Avenue be renamed Bonifacio Avenue. One wonders how soon the Luneta, the Escolta and Plaza Miranda will suffer the fate that now threatens Calle Azcárraga.
The man whose name has provoked such bitter debate was a local boy who made good, though one would bring down the nationalists on one’s head if one were to call Marcelo de Azcárraga a Filipino simply because he was born in the Philippines, as were his immediate forbears on both sides. Azcárraga is a Basque name and the general was of practically pure Spanish blood. On his mother’s side, he was related to the Palmeros and Versosas of Cagayan; on his father’s side, to the Ugartes of Manila. An uncle of his was a Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortes in 1820.
Azcárraga was born in Manila in 1836. His father had a bookstore on the Escolta; his mother ran a shop on the other side of the Pasig. In spite of their eminent relatives, the parents seem to have been poor and Azcárraga was able to study at Letrán only as a working student: he did kitchen chores in the school in exchange for his education. But he was a brilliant student and, while still very young, already spoke of someday becoming a famous general.
From Letrán, he went to a preparatory military school that had just been opened in Manila, completed his military training in Spain, and was sent to Cuba. He was a lieutenant at 18, a captain at 20, a major at 22. During the Carlist revolt in Spain, he fought on the side of the crown and is said never to have lost a battle. In 1871, at 35, he fulfilled his childhood dream and became a brigadier-general.
Eight years later, he retired from the army and entered politics. He started as a senator, rose to become minister of war, was prime minister of Spain in 1897, when the Philippines was on the brink of revolt.
Azcárraga’s attitude toward his native country has been hotly debated. He is said to have advocated reforms in the Philippines and to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Filipino propagandists in Madrid. But there is against him the sending of troops to quell the Philippine revolt and his refusal to grant clemency to Rizal. Don Francisco Pi y Margal claimed that he made the petition and that Azcárraga rejected it. In justice to the man, however, we should bear in mind that, in those times, all Spaniards as well as some Filipinos regarded the Philippines as an integral part of Spain. Their attitude toward the Revolution was, therefore, what our attitude would be if, say, the island of Palawan should try to secede from the Philippines.
Most quoted against Azcárraga are three lines that Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote in a letter to Rizal: “Azcárraga has written me about the defense of your Noli. I did not know he is a Filipino, but it seems he is that only by birth.”
Yet we know that Azcárraga attended Filipino gatherings in Madrid, that he was present and gave a speech (being then already the top man in the Spanish government) when Juan Luna won a prize for the Spoliarium, and that he referred to the Filipinos in Spain as his “paisanos,” bidding the government to take special effort in serving them because “they are separated from their country and far from their loved ones.”
In his home in Madrid was a painting by Luna of a woman in Philippine attire with a child. Azcárraga himself had sat for the child, and he told visitors that the woman represented Filipinas and the child the breed of the land.
Can Azcárraga be considered a Filipino? In the present advanced meaning of the word, definitely not, not only because he was of Spanish blood but because he could not see the interests of the Philippines apart from those of Spain. He was an imperialist, not a pioneer nationalist. Yet it can be said that he helped advance the idea of the Filipino simply by being born in this country and bringing prestige to it by rising to the highest government position in Spain.
The idea of the Filipino did not suddenly emerge full-blown in the 1890s; it was the result of an evolution that’s still in progress, like all other nationalisms. Athenian in the days of Pericles did not mean every native of Athens but only a small minority on top. Roman did not mean all the people of the empire or even of Rome but only the elite who were citizens. France, England and Spain, in feudal times, chiefly meant, first the barons, then the king—and a French monarch who had brought the nobles to heel could say that all France was gathered in his bedroom. It took a long process to develop the idea that nationhood resided not in the nobility, though they may have been the first to be conscious of it, but in the masses. Of the Congo today, its present premier says that it is not a people but many peoples, not a nation but many tribes. There is as yet not even a minority to start the idea of the Congolese. As another Congo official says: “The people here have no memories.”
Filipino, too, once meant only a minority on top: the Philippine-born Spaniards or Creoles. The name might have stopped there but for an event in our history. In the early 1800s, the Philippines sent its first representatives to the Spanish Cortes. The representatives may have been of pure Spanish blood, but they went to the Cortes not as Spaniards but as Filipinos; they represented not Spain but the Philippines. For the first time the world was made aware that there was such a thing as the Filipino, the native of a land called the Philippines. Once the idea had formed, the Creoles were powerless to keep it to themselves any longer. It was bound to grow and develop, to reach down to the Indios, to spread roots throughout the land till it meant, not the minority on top, but the masses below.
If regarded as a step in this development, Azcárraga, too, might be included in the term Filipino. He was born on our soil, he grew up under our skies, and many of our forbears must have felt the thrill of nascent nationalism when they heard that the poor little boy who had trod the streets of Manila had become the prime minister of that faraway Reina Regente in Spain.
Indeed the Ayuntamiento of Manila had already expressed its pride in the local boy who made good by naming a street after him, long before he became minister of war or premier. By 1872, Calle Azcárraga was already on the map of Manila. It was probably given that name the year before, to celebrate Azcárraga’s promotion to brigadier-general and his victories in the Cuban war. Contrary, therefore, to Dr. Domingo Abella’s assertion, Calle Azcárraga—or the Tondo-Binondo portion of it, anyway—has borne the general’s name for about 90, not merely 50, years.
The original street was known as the Paseo de Felipe II and did not extend beyond the Tondo boundary. Shortly after it was renamed Paseo de Azcárraga, the authorities saw the need for a circumferential road linking the western to the eastern side of north Manila, which was then a jigsaw puzzle of islands: Isla de Meisic, Isla de Binondo, Isla de Tanduay.
A street, called Nueva, was opened across the island of Meisic and connected to Azcárraga by a bridge across the Canal de la Reyna. At the other end, Nueva was joined by a bridge across the Estero de Magdalena to the Calle del Gen. Izquierdo in barrio Trozo. Another new street, later called Paz, was cut to link Gen. Izquierdo to the Calle de San Bernardo in Sta. Cruz. San Bernardo stopped at the present junction of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. There was an estero there—the Estero de Bilibid—and across the bridge that spanned it was Calle Yriz, which ended where the Mendiola bridge now begins, and where once stood the Plaza de Sta. Ana.
The old circumferential road was, therefore, a wide winding thoroughfare beginning on Manila Bay and ending at the Estero de San Miguel, and was composed of six different sections divided from each other by esteros: Azcárraga, Nueva, Gen. Izquierdo, Paz, San Bernardo and Yriz. By late Spanish times, the name Calle Azcárraga already covered about half of the circumferential road, up to the Magdalena estero. The portion called San Bernardo was later renamed Bilibid.
In early American times, the circumferential road was further widened and straightened until it gained its present semblance of a single continuous thoroughfare. The Americans decided that four or five names were too many for one street and the name Azcárraga was extended to the entire road from Manila Bay to Bilibid. A few years later, the remaining portion, Yriz, was annexed to Azcárraga too. The downtown portion of Azcárraga has, therefore, borne the name for only some 50 years.
The old Paseo de Azcárraga was open to the sea at its Tondo end and what old folks most vividly remember of that seaside paseo is that it was where the gallows was set up for public hangings—not a very pretty “historical tradition” and an argument against this “landmark” the pro-Rectos have missed. The gallows rose where, very appropriately, the matadero now stands; and one wishes that slaughterhouse could be removed so the street, whatever its name will be, could again run right down to the sea, as in the days when it was a paseo.
Today, the Divisoria, Tutuban Station and the various bus depots have turned this part of Azcárraga into Babel town and its uproar, stinks and turmoil are, for provincial newcomers, their first taste of Manila life.
Around Tutuban used to be a nipa village. Here, Bonifacio was born; here, the Katipuneros held their first meetings. Just past Tutuban, near the corner of Reina Regente, was a bibingka stall that was the most famous in the city during the 1920s. Renaults and Studebakers succeeded each other at night in front of that humble shop, where a couple of old women took what seemed hours to cook one perfect bibingka.
Farther on, beside the estero, was the Meisic police station, which controlled the turbulence of Tondo and which was to gain a sinister fame during the Occupation as one of the Japs’ torture chambers. Also in this neighborhood stood the house of a sister of Rizal, Lucía Herbosa, where the hero’s family stayed during city visits. Next door to it was the house of Maximo Viola, who helped finance Rizal’s books. Both houses—large rococo edifices dating back to the mid-1800s—were destroyed during the war.
Across the estero was Calle Magdalena, at the Azcárraga corner of which lived the Lunas. The brothers Juan and Antonio introduced the bicycle to this country and in a coliseum just off Azcárraga they sponsored weekly bicycle races. A few blocks away, on the other side of the street, was the residence of Don Florentino Torres, one of the first Filipinos to be named to the Supreme Court. The old alley beside his house now bears his name. In front of his house stood the Star Theater, a poor man’s vaudeville house, where, however, some very bright stars (Pugo, for instance) had their start. This part of Azcárraga has now become Manila’s funeraria row.
Rizal Avenue used to be Dulumbayan and near its present intersection with Azcárraga was the Teatro Libertad, one of the most famous zarzuela houses of the 1900s. When the zarzuela declined, it changed its name to Majestic and became a cine. It was pulled down when Calle Oroquieta was given an outlet to Azcárraga. A block away was the Bilibid, which, in the old days, was a circular building within a quadrangle of stonewall, surrounded by open meadows. Opposite the Bilibid was the Teatro Zorilla, the number-one zarzuela theater of early American days. It, too, was a circular building with tiers of windows all around. Inside were a horse shoe of boxes, an upper gallery and the largest stage in the city. It, too, later became a cine, ended up as a bodega. A school building is now being built on this site, which had been occupied by the Naric since the Occupation.
Next door to the Zorilla was the Oriente cigar factory, standing right smack on what is now the intersection of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. On the same site, in the late 1920s, the FEU was born. Across the Estero de Bilibid was an open field where the circus set up its big tent in October. This field was bordered by thick bamboo groves, which, according to legend, were haunted by cafres. The field is now the FEU campus. The estero was buried when Quezon Boulevard was built but a foul vile remnant of it is still visible in Bilibid Viejo and Arlegui.
Calle Yriz, now the final section of Azcárraga, was a lovely street shaded by giant acacias and rivaling R. Hidalgo in the splendor of its houses. Here stood the homes of the Carmelos, the De los Reyeses, the Padillas and the Arces. The Arce house is now the old Selecta; the other mansions have become squalid boarding houses.
At the end of the street was the Plaza de Sta. Ana, now Legarda, which was alongside a stream so clear you could see the pebbles at the bottom but which is now so black and stinking it’s one of the most repulsive sights in the city. At the Azcárraga corner of the plaza was the Club Carambola, where young blades played billiards in the front rooms, card games in the back rooms. Beside it was the old Centro Escolar de Señoritas, whose girls were famous for their good looks, their brains and the elegance of their Spanish. The old Centro was a squat three-story building laced with fire escapes and so many Lotharios tried to climb those fire escapes Doña Librada Avelino had to ask for a special police detail to guard her internas from naughty males.
Opposite the Centro was the rear patio of San Sebastian Church, where charity fairs used to be held. The gayest season of this east end of Azcárraga was toward the end of January, when San Sebastian and the Centro celebrated their respective fiestas at the same time and the Centro señoritas, in pink ternos, marched in the procession of La Virgen del Carmen.
The old Azcárraga began with the slums of Tondo and ended in the fashionable world of San Sebastian and was throughout a sedate residential street. Even the Bilibid was so quiet a lot of people grew up in its vicinity without realizing it was a prison. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the street came to life as carriages full of dressed-up folk converged on the Zorilla and the Libertad. A friskier note was added when a streetcar line to San Juan was opened on Azcárraga. On Saturday nights, one saw the streetcars crowded with wild young men on their way to the San Juan Cabaret.
The present Calle Azcárraga begins with the transportation jungle of Divisoria and ends with the educational jungle between Quezon Boulevard and Legarda. Now a center of commerce, it has lost its acacias, its streetcars, and its fine old houses—except one. Across the street from Carmelo and Bauerman’s is a very long, colonial-style building that has kept its old appurtenances: its azotea, its shell windows and carved rajas, even its original sidewalk. Here dwell two spinsters—the Del Rosario sisters—who have watched their neighborhood invaded by commerce but have, through the years, stubbornly refused to sell or lease their house or have it altered in any way. Inside are some two-dozen bedrooms, ancient furniture and life-size images of saints.
The sisters are the last of their line; they have no heirs, but have three adopted children. They have become a legend. Stories are told about the fabulous sums they have been offered for their house and lot. Once there was a rumor they had adopted some Negritoes. Few people have been able to enter their old house. All around them, their street, the city, the people have been changing; but the years pass and their house remains unchanged, save that during Holy Week, the withered blessed palm branches at the always-closed windows turn into green ones.
There it stands, a monstrous monument against progress, on a street where all the other town houses have either vanished or decayed. This house has survived Calle Yriz and it looks as if it will survive Calle Azcárraga too.
In this corner: Lacson
By Quijano de Manila
May 11, 1957–THE belief that the late President Magsaysay started the strenous style in Philipine politics is more affectionate than accurate, for long before the guy attracted notice, another, younger fellow was already startling the nation with his loud shirts and louder mouth his high leaps and fast pace, and his general air of roughness, toughness, youthfulness and vitality.
To post-liberation voters, Arsenio Lacson of Talisay, Negros Occidental, seemed completely new kind of politician, a brute wind hurtling through a wasteland of old men. Quezon had fixed the type of the old-style politico, who was elegant, eloquent and imperious—and a rather jaded man of the world. Politics, before the war, created the only real aristocracy, in the country; the Commonwealth was purely a governmetn by cronies: the affairs of the nation wer in the hands of an elite whose members also laid down the law in fashion and manners. When Quezon combined a white silk suit with a dark-blue shirt and a pastel tie, he launched a style that became almost a uniform throughout the country in the late 1930’s. when his cabinet members took up the tango, every social-climber started dipping and sliding in the Argentine manner. The so-called stability of the prewar world was based on this feudal admiration that the country had for its leaders as rare beings set apart by talent and breeding and ability to direct the destinies of people of lesser clay. A phenomenon like Magsaysay would have been impossible during the Quezon era; everybody would have noted uneasily that he just didn’t “belong,” for the old political aristocrats valued gentility almost as much as they did money.
Government in the grand manner tried a comeback after the war—but the authority had vanished with Quezon and suave manners no longer awed the commonalty. Mr. Osmeña had valid reasons for not campaigning for re-election; besides, begging for votes smacked of the vulgar. His wife gauged the postwar temper more accurately. Mr. Roxas was of the true Quezonian stamp—courtly and polished and vaguely jaded – but when he attempted Quezon’s grand manner he was rudely rapped by the rowdy new age in the person of Arsenio Lacson.
Lacson symbolized the postwar world almost too perfectly: he was not only a newspaperman and a columnist, he was also a radio commentator. He looked and talked like a stevedore; he was a gaudy dresser; and he didn’t dance the tango. He had no respect for political parties and no great liking for Americans—and he said so, in his newspaper column and over radio. When President Roxas barred him from the air on October 4, 1947, Lacson became the first popular idol of the postwar era. It became inevitable that he would enter politics. A generation that disliked everything old had found a voice.
Lacson was youth itself – noisy and brash and violent. Legends sprang up about his virility and sexual prowess until he became identified in the popular mind with the traveling saleman of every stag story. His physical courage has been equally blazoned. A famous instance is the incident on Pier 7 in 1948, when college students jeering a departing group of senatorial junketeers were threatened with shooting by the senators’ bodyguards. Lacson, then still a newspaperman, strode right up to the drawn pistols, shoved them away with a sweep of his hand, and ordered the students to resume their derisive despedida.
A man among men
From those wild early days when “Lacson stories” were the chief laughing matter of the nation, he has displayed what is known as “the common touch.” He is no folksy man of the masses but one look at him and the man on the street knows that here is a fellow he can talk to with his mental fly unbottoned. It’s a Manila joke that the Tondo goons respect only two beings in this world—Mayor Lacson and the Señor of Quiapo. Lacson has sedulously cultivated the Yahoo manner, the siga-siga style, but one suspects that the bristles on the surface do not go all the way down; for this guy with a pug’s battered nose comes from a “good” family and went to the right schools; this character who talks like a stevedore is a literate, even a literary, man; and this toughie who has often been accused of being too chummy with the underworld belonged to the most “idealistic” of the wartime underground groups: the Free Philippines. One realizes how much our violent times have shaped him into their young face in the old photographs—a gentle, almost ethereal face, quite good-looking, and with a fine lordly nose.
As a candidate—first for Congress and then for the mayoralty of Manila – he manifested the same kind of spontaneity and exuberance with which Mr. Magsaysay was later to bowl us all over. When he won the nomination for the congressional post, he leapt from the floor to the stage and acknowledged the plaudits of the delegates in boxer style – hands locked above his head. As a campaigner, he abolished the era of eloquence and instituted the person-to-person approach, leaping down from the granstand, after having introduced himself, to mingle and make merry with the crowd. Even the barrio-to-barrio strategy had already been anticipated, somewhat cynically, by Lacson with his bar-to-bar campaign tour to Tondo – where, as any Manila policeman will tell you, the distance between any two bars is at least as perilous as the distance between two barrios in the more alarming provinces.
Public office was not to mellow the young Terror from Talisay. His friends say that the enemies at whom he sticks out his tongue perish completely from popular esteem, so fatal is the Lacson venom, and they cite such fearful examples as Valeriano Fugoso, Manuel de la Fuente and Elpidio Quirino. The Quirino-Lacson feud forms one of the most entertaining chapters of our political history and it was climaxed by Lacson’s suspension as mayor of Manila—a “martyrdom” as profitable for Lacson as his 1947 suspension from the air by President Roxas. On both occasions, Lacson found popular opinion, both side and against the President of the Republic. (In 1947, one of his defenders was famed columnist Walter Winchell, who assailed Harold Ickes, then U.S. secretary of the interior, for defending the Roxas ban.) Lacson’s popularity, in fact, disproves the Dale Carnegie rule; he wins friends by making enemies.
Relegated to the background during the Magsaysay era, Lacson has come back with a bang into the center of the limelight: he has announced that he is joining the scrimmage for the presidency. He says he made this decision even before Magsaysay died and that he did the deciding while he was in the hospital for a sinusitis operation.
Trinidad Legarda: Civil Leader of the Year
April 11, 1953
by Quijano de Manila
THE Filipina as clubwoman is only about thirty years old but has a record that should impress even the male most stubbornly convinced that a woman’s place is in the home and only in the home.
A brilliant example of the Filipina as clubwoman is Trinidad Fernandez Legarda, who, since her teens, has been working to make her country cleaner, healthier, more united, more beautiful, and more cultured. On Thursday, April 16, her labors will be given due recognition when the 18 affiliate Red Feather organizations award her a gold plaque as the “Civil Leader of the Year.”
The Other Manila
by Quijano de Manila
December 13, 1952—AROUND 1860, three Europeans visited Manila and recorded their impressions of the city in mid-19th century. One of them was en Englishman; the other two were Germans, one of whom was the unknown author of the waters reproduced on this and the following pages.
These watercolors have been in the possession of the Zobel family for the last hundred years; they believe the author to have been a visiting relative from Germany, who later married into the Manila Zobels. The original Zobels were Germans, who came to the Philippines to deal in drugs—and liberal ideas, too, incidentally. (The unknown watercolorist did a sketch of the old Zobel drugstore on Calle Real—a magnificent but rather puzzling establishment, with a sort of communion rail instead of a counter, and with a sort of altar in the center, arrayed with medicine bottles instead of candlesticks.)
By the end of the 19th century, the Zobels had intermarried with Spanish and Filipino families and were already regarded as naturales del pais. The first Jacobo Zobel considered himself Filipino and was so fully identified with the cause of reform that his name was implicated in the so-called Cavite Revolt that cost the lives of Fathers Burgos, Zamora and Gomez. As mayor of Manila, this Zobel beautified the city by planting Japanese flame tress all over town. His chief claim to fame, however, is that he gave Manila its first horse-drawn streetcars.
Among his modern descendants is the young painter Fernando Zobel, whose obsession with Philippine art and culture led to the rediscovery of these 1860 watercolors. Fernando remembers that when he was a child, his father used to show him these sketches, which had been gathered into an album. A family treasure, the album was always kept in a safe. After his father died, the family forgot about the album. They supposed it had perished during the Liberation, when the Zobels’ Manila house was destroyed.
A few months ago, Fernando was ransacking a Zobel bodega for relics of the past when he came upon the lost album. The binding had decayed, but the sketches were unharmed, dazzling his eyes with their clear beauty as he turned the yellowed pages; the album was intact. He now guards it with his life; to every historical-minded Filipino, it is certainly priceless—a glimpse of a city that vanished a hundred years ago.
Whoever the author was (he left no signature), he had wit and a keen eye, an ironic intelligence, and consummate skill. His colors sparkle as brilliantly today as when he first laid them on; a dead city lives again in jeweled sketch after sketch. But we of this generation turn the pages with increasing bewilderment; with shocked surprise; even, perhaps, with faint terror. For this is a Manila of which we have no memory, no knowledge at all. It is terra incognita, newfoundland, a strange unrecognizable place.
All of us have the same general idea of what is meant by “the old Manila, the Spanish Manila.” We instantly see the sagging balconies of Calle Real, the Gothic spires of Sto. Domingo, the silver Romanesque dome of the Cathedral. Against that unchanging background, we naively pose the conquistadores of the 16th century, the missionaries of the 17th, the grandees of the 18th, and the rebel patriots of the 19th century. But now, confronted with these watercolors, we feel like the archaeologists who, searching for the “real” Troy, found seven different Troys, one beneath the other. And we realize how many, many Manilas have come and gone, unknown to us.
The Manila that perished during the Liberation was not the old Manila, the Spanish Manila: it was only the most recent in a series of cities, each completely different from the others. Repeatedly destroyed, this tough city was never recreated in its own image—and those who now propose to rebuild Intramuros “as it was in Spanish times” still have to learn that they are dealing with a most chameleon city.
In the Manila of these watercolors, nothing is familiar, everything seems “wrong”—Sto. Domingo is not Gothic nor the Cathedral Romanesque; the Governor’s palace stands in the cathedral square, which has an iron fence running around it; San Agustin has two towers; and the Escolta, with its whitewashed one-story buildings, looks like the main street of a minor Andalusian village. We gasp with astonishment—and we wonder: what did the other, the even earlier Manilas look like?
We will never know now; the descriptions in historical chronicles cannot give us the concrete image. But the Manila of 1860 was fortunate: a sensitive artist saw it and seems to have fallen in love with it. And he has arrested its face forever in the mirror of his art.
While he was doing that, another German was observing the city, though with a far more captious eye. Mr. F. Jagor visited Manila in 1859-1860, and found cause for complaint even before he had stepped off the boat. Apparently, getting a customs clearance in Manila was as vexatious for tourists then as it is now. Mr. Jagor had to leave his luggage behind on the boat.
He thought the Walled City dreary and hot, “built more for security than for beauty.” Life there was “vanity, envy, empleomania and racial strife.” The arrabales were picturesque; but the water was bad, the streets were dusty, and the clogged riverse and canals repulsive. Moreover, everything was too expensive, more expensive than in Singapore or Batavia. And the natives showed no awe of Europeans, which Jagor blamed on the low type of mot Spanish immigrants to the Philippines and on the absence here of “that high wall reared by disdainful British arrogance” to separate the Europeans from the natives.
The city was poor in entertainment. “During my stay, there were no performances in any of the Spanish theaters; in the Tagalog theaters, there were representations of dramas and comedies, most of them translations.” There were no nightclubs; one could find no books to read; and the newspapers were atrocious. A typical issue of El Comercio, a four-page daily, carried on its front page, as news from Europe, two articles reprinted from old books.
The botanical gardens were in a sad state, the few plants withering. Fashion decreed as a diversion, in spite of the dust, an evening ride along the bay. A few minutes from town, the countryside was green and fresh, but it was not quite the thing to go there. “One went riding to show off one’s clothes, not to enjoy the contemplation of nature.” He went to a cockfight and was nauseated. “Indios sweating in every pore of their bodies; their faces expressing the evil passions that enslaved them.”
Nothing, in fact, impressed Mr. Jagor about Manila except “the beauty of the women who animate its streets.” In this, “Manila surpasses all the cities of trans-Ganges India.”
If Mr. Jagor did not enjoy his visit to Manila, another visitor of the time certainly did. Sir John Bowring, a former governor of Hong Kong, vacationed in Manila toward the end of 1860, as a guest of Governor-General Fernando de Norzagaray.
“I have heard it said,” wrote Sir John afterward, “that life in Manila is extremely monotonous; but, during my stay, it seemed to me full of interest and animation.”
He was charmed the moment he landed: a “brilliant native band,” assembled under the Magallanes monument, was playing “God Save the Queen.” He was taken to the Governor-General’s palace in the Walled City, beside the cathedral park, then called La Plaza de Manila, which reminded Sir John of the parks in London—“with the difference that this park in Manila is adorned with the lovely vegetation of the tropics, whose leaves offer a great variety in color, from the most intense yellow to the darkest green, and whose flowers are notable for their splendor and beauty.”
Every day, in the afternoon, he explored the fascinating city. And: “Every day, a new surprise.” Each arrabal of Manila seemed to have its own “characteristic distinction.” Malate was full of clerks and seamstresses; Sampaloc, of printers and laundresses. Ermita was famed for its embroidery; Pasay, for its betel nuts. In Sta. Ana were the summer villas of the rich. Tondo supplied the city with milk, cheese and lard—or so thought Sir John; more probably, the milk came from Mariquina and the chief industry of Tondo as well as of Sampaloc was to “multiply” the milk. Binondo was “the most important and opulent town of the Philippines and its true commercial capital.” On Arroceros, he watched the fleets of rice-loaded bancas and he saw a great procession of cigar girls from the nearby factory. Entering the factory, he noticed that the workrooms of the women resounded with gay chatter while complete silence reigned in the workrooms of the men.
He visited, too, the Governor-General’s “summer house by the Pasig, Malacañang,” which had “a pretty garden, a convenient bath that could be lowered into the river, a birdhouse and a small zoo, in which I saw a chimpanzee that later died of pneumonia.”
He wondered why so few people cared to enjoy “the beautiful panorama of rivers, roads, and villages” in the suburbs. Even for the Pasig, which so revolted Jagor, he has a nice word: “The aspect of the river is delicious; and no little would be the merit of the artist who could transfer to canvas, with its proper hues, so lovely a picture.” In the evenings, he joined the paseo on the Calzada; at night, there was usually a tertulia or a reception at the Palace. He had been a soldier in Spain during the Napoleonic wars and he rather regretted that the Spanish ladies in Manila had abandoned their native costume; the city’s fashionable world had adopted Parisian styles and manners.
During the fiesta of Sampaloc, which he attended with some British ensigns, he was enchanted by the vivacity of the native girls. “The styles of Paris had not yet invaded those places; but the native decorations had taste and variety, and there was as much fun and flirtatiousness as in the most sophisticated gatherings. Our young ensigns were among the gayest in the crowd and, although unable to speak the language, managed to make themselves understood by the charming girls. The feast lasted until the small hours of the morning.”
Like Jagor, he noticed the absence of racial barriers. “I have seen, at the same table, Spaniards, mestizos and Indios, priests and soldiers. To the eyes of one who has observed the repugnance and misunderstandings caused by race in various parts of the Orient and who knows that race is the great divider of society, the contrast and exception presented by so mixed a population as that of the Philippines is admirable.” At that year’s ceremony in honor of the Immaculate Conception, which was attended by the entire city, from the Governor-General down, a native priest was selected to deliver the principal speech.
Other details mentioned by Sir John are tantalizing. He speaks of a Chinese cemetery in downtown Sta. Cruz and of a bridge with seven arches, the Puente Grande, on the present site of Jones. The city seems different in more important respects, too. It then had a population of 150,000, and had had only one conviction for murder in five years. (The provinces had the same crime rate—“with the exception of the Island of Negros, where, of 44 criminal convictions, 28 were for assassination.”) But people—especially the Chinese—were already complaining of too many lawyers: there were almost 80 of them practising in Manila at that time. Besides a university and numerous convent-schools, the city had a nautical college and an academy of fine arts—“which has not, so far, produced a Murillo or a Velasquez.”
At some time in their peregrinations around so small a city, our three travelers of 1860 must have brushed against each other; one imagines them being caught up in a nasty traffic tangle on, say, Santo Cristo, among the screaming pigtailed Chinese, the carabao carts, the black-shrouded beatas, and the laughing bare-shouldered ladies in crinolines, driving past in swank victorias. The angry Mr. Jagor would be stomping past, fuming at the stinks and the dust; Sir John would be leaning eagerly from his carriage, cooing over the quaintness of it all; while on the pavement, leaning against a wall, would be the mysterious Zobel artist, smiling pensively as he studied the effect of light upon the scene and the relations of the colors. None of them knew it, of course, but our three travelers were looking upon a doomed city—a city that was very soon and very suddenly to perish, leaving only a few wracks behind.
At seven o’clock on the night of June 3, 1863, after a day of intense heat, the ground shook suddenly and violently. The quake lasted only half a minute; but, in that split minute, the entire city crumbled into ruins, burying hundreds alive in the wreckage. It was the eve of Corpus Christi. The lone survivor was, as usual, the church of the Augustinians, which had merely lost a belltower. Their palace reduced to rubble, the Spanish governors-general transferred to Malacañan, which became their permanent residence. The foundations of the old palace survive to this day.
From the ruins of that other Manila—that odd city smiling at us from the Zobel watercolors—arose the Manila we remember, the Manila of Rizal and the Revolution, the last great creation of Spain in the Philippines.—QUIJANO DE MANILA